Leading with Pride—a mentorship program that inspires change for LGBTQ+ and allies

Leaders at Intuit India mentor LGBTQ+ individuals both within and outside the company, creating a nurturing environment that encourages open dialogue and personal development.

Allyship is about more than just verbal support. It’s about engagement and actions that can make a difference in the lives of others. A year ago, one of Intuit India’s employee resource group Pride Network partnered with Leading With Pride, a leadership development program tailored for LGBTQ+ early-career professionals and allies. Throughout this journey, the mentees were guided and supported by six of our exceptional leaders.

Leaders at Intuit India take on mentorship roles to help mentees embark on their passion projects and provide guidance on improving their skills. They create a safe space for mentees to engage in open conversations—explore their life stories, discover their inner strengths, and enhance their ability to lead and inspire change. 

The outcome of the program is mutually beneficial. It encourages mentees to embrace their authentic selves and pursue their passions fearlessly. It also challenges mentors to look at their weaknesses, biases, and prejudices—enabling them to become better allies. Read on to find out the key learnings from our mentor-mentee conversations. 

Start from a place of truth and vulnerability 

Sarah D’Souza [Mentor]: When Sujitha and I kicked off our first mentorship session, I have to admit, I was a bundle of nerves. It felt like we were two strangers trying to find common ground. We always began our conversations with moments that made us happy and sad. But I tended to quickly shift focus to providing actionable insights to help Sujitha advance his personal endeavor of promoting LGBTQ+ awareness. Upon reflection of our second session, I realized that I had been directing our conversations rather than letting Sujitha take the lead. Then I talked to him about what I intended for him and how he wants our sessions to be—which stemmed from knowing that it’s okay to be vulnerable and fluid in our conversations. This meant that we wouldn’t sugarcoat anything, whether it was positive or negative feedback. As we progressed through our sessions, we learned so much about each other that I‌ looked forward to our time together. 

Sujitha [Mentee]: Sarah and I found a special friend in each other. We talked about everything under the sun, and that only made me feel better—even on a difficult day. Sarah’s insights have been very helpful in reaching my goals—and following my vision of building awareness about the LGBTQ+ community. She introduced me to Intuit’s Design for Delight process that I use often to overcome challenges. It’s a rare gift to find someone who isn’t a part of our daily lives yet has the ability to connect with us on a deeper level and understand our intent. 

Celebrate the nuances that make us human first, then an ally

Sarah D’Souza: Unconscious bias is a real thing and it’s deep-rooted in all of us. During my last session with Sujitha, I got his pronoun wrong and quickly apologized. Although he was gracious and understanding, I felt disappointed in myself. At the same time, I realized that it’s okay to make a mistake. What’s important is to be mindful of our potentially recurring mistakes and to address them during conversations. One of the many things that Sujitha said about being a good ally will always stay with me —“Wherever you start is a good place to start.” 

Sujitha: We both stumbled in our attempts to express our views, but we learned the valuable lesson that initially struggling to comprehend someone’s perspective is a natural part of the process. As a queer individual, I experience the challenges that come with societal norms and expectations. Sarah’s direct yet compassionate guidance in educating Tamil-speaking audiences about the LGBTQ+ community on YouTube was uplifting. In one of our sessions, I shared with her a negative comment that I received online, and the impact it had on me. Sarah held the space for me to sit through my difficult feelings following the comment. It was nice to be able to acknowledge that everything isn’t wonderful, and it’ll pass. 

Build sensitivity by asking meaningful questions 

Lokesh Tripathi [Mentor]: Right off the bat, Naman and I established a positive rapport with each other. It was easy to strike up conversations that were both mature and thoughtful, allowing us to explore various aspects of life. We also delved into his passion project, a fashion jewelry brand  to support the broader queer community—for people without piercings, but who would love to accessorize. Asking  Naman about his vision and life experiences compelled me to grow more sensitive toward the community. It made me reflect on my own preconceptions or biases that may exist and challenged me to be mindful of these factors. I reached out to friends who have LGBTQ+ family members and they provided me with personal anecdotes and new perspectives. We often overlook the impact of pronouns that we’ve grown accustomed to and the hurt and alienation it can cause if used incorrectly. I now take the time to ask how someone would like to be addressed and ensure I use the appropriate pronouns. 

Naman Bharti [Mentee]: Each session with Lokesh was an enriching experience for me. Not only did I gain valuable insights that could benefit my venture, but I also got to broaden my outlook on other aspects of life. I’m so glad that we had the chance to connect. Lokesh created a supportive environment where I talked about my views without fear of judgment. And I asked him thought-provoking questions, one of which concerned his reaction if he were the parent of an LGBTQ+ individual. I found it helpful to understand the sentiments of someone who is not part of the community—and how I could also develop sensitivity toward their sentiments. Lokesh has been very patient in building context and asking for clarity before drawing conclusions—or providing guidance. 

Inspiration knows no bounds 

Lokesh Tripathi: Having met Naman makes me think about how we’re not only defined by our identities, but our actions that bring about change. Naman’s commitment to social causes extends beyond the LGBTQ+ community. He brings individuals from underprivileged backgrounds on board as artists to create accessories for his jewelry brand. I love that his brand’s vision and clarity about his identity transcends boundaries. His self-assuredness is important in creating a supportive society for the underprivileged and LGBTQ+ individuals, especially those struggling to find their own voice. Naman inspired me to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community through his aspirations, challenges, experiences—and how I could play a role in promoting inclusivity and propel growth for LGBTQ+ individuals in my team as well as the program.

Naman Bharti: In my quest for gender expression, I have been experimenting with various looks, and my personal connection to the LGBTQ+ community inspired me to launch a jewelry brand that challenges gender stereotypes. I was thrilled at the prospect of having access to an experienced and knowledgeable mentor who could guide me through the process of promoting my brand. Interacting with Lokesh has broadened my horizons, and his work experiences have given me immense exposure. He encouraged me to cater to a wider audience and strategize my brand image for the next three years. I’m more equipped with the necessary skills to take my venture to the next level, and also build confidence in myself.

At Intuit, we’re proud of our continuous efforts to encourage people to do the right thing. You can also listen to our podcast featuring Intuit employees sharing their stories—as LGBTQIA+ individuals and allies.

Want to be part of our diverse tech culture and connect with people with different experiences? Check out open positions to join us.