A corporate success story and a queer icon, Manish Chopra allows his individuality to determine his fashion choices. He is unashamed about calling his dressing style fashion-forward and trendy even though it might not seem eccentric

While coming out to family and friends might not have been easy, it meant living his life more confidently. The experience taught him to make life decisions with partners of his choosing. Coming out has also helped his professional relationships.

In fact, it has helped me a lot more as compared to people who don’t come out. It brought me a lot of ease.

He has had the privilege to work in an inclusive corporate environment and excel in it. He acknowledges that a large part of this inclusivity owes itself to the creative and fashion industry. However, this does not mean it has always been smooth sailing. In the beginning, coworkers would shy away from the subject of sexuality. Manish himself found it difficult to talk about it and wasn't as forthcoming as he is today. But with time and with conscious efforts, both on his part and that of the company, this changed.

Off late I have been seeing a lot of organizations working towards inclusivity. My last two organizations ensured that leadership is calling you up, understanding your journey, and understanding the hurdles that you have met in the past. They also come up with solutions.

He has specific pointers for workspaces to become more inclusive for queer folk. It irks him that queer employees are stereotyped into specific job profiles like 'fashion designer' or 'graphic designer.' Your sexuality should not determine your job role. Beyond diversity hiring, he wants corporates to evaluate their new hires for their capabilities and dedication to their organization, not just their sexuality. He also considers it critical for queer folks with more privilege to serve as role models. This is to support and forge paths for queer folks who may not have that privilege.

Inclusivity is not about women on top or men on top. It's about giving people the space to express themselves so that they feel like a part of your entire structure.

Given that Manish still finds it challenging to talk to certain family members about his identity, he falls back on his support system of friends. These friends, most of whom are cis and straight, provide him with the support he needs. Addressing the criticism that corporates receive for using DEI strategies as a branding tactic, he is of the opinion that commercial motives are an inevitable part of the corporate world. Brands may be more inclusive today to get more eyeballs, but the hope is that in a few years, their intentions won't matter. This is because the results of their efforts will prove to have a much wider impact. The magnitude of efforts will be different for each initiative and the different journeys that corporates are on must be acknowledged and appreciated.

Manish finds it confusing as to why it is so difficult for queer people in India to adopt children. If parenting works for someone and they want to do it, they should be allowed to, irrespective of their sexuality. In addition, for Manish, it does not end with adoption. Our school education needs to accommodate parenting that does not fit into heteronormative structures.

As advice for those who are still struggling with career decisions, he says it is wise to rely on your confidence and be firm in thought. He also suggests being flexible about career paths and not sticking to initial ideas that were based on early choices or the expectations of others. Above all, Manish tells us, adaptability is what keeps us afloat and allows us to eventually thrive in an ever-changing environment.

Effortlessly combining style, professionalism, and diligent work, Manish Chopra is a corporate icon and an inspiration for those who want to break corporate's stereotypical molds.

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