At ZS, our priority is to foster a culture where every ZSer receives support to feel heard and respected and is enabled to thrive. Our employee-led inclusion and diversity groups (IDGs) provide a safe space for ZSers to connect with their community, discuss issues, offer support and work toward a common goal of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). But solidarity can’t happen in isolation. Allyship is a vital part of sustaining a culture of inclusion and belonging. Allies like Ali Khan are a critical component in creating a welcoming space for all ZSers.
Ali joined ZS in 2019 as a manager of IT governance risk and compliance in India. This role, and his past experiences supporting firmwide DEI initiatives made him perfectly suited to work as a core member of ZS’s allyship program.
Launched in partnership with the Forté Foundation, Empowering Allies and Champions (EACH) is a multiweek program that combines opportunities for education, interaction and personal reflection to explore the topic of diversity in the workplace. This program provides tools, frameworks and peer support to help ZSers take action within their teams, local offices and ZS at large. Participants are empowered to spark change and create a more inclusive and successful workplace for all.
As a core member of the EACH program, Ali developed an internal white paper to address allyship at ZS. In his white paper, he expressed the need for collaboration with IDGs and the importance of listening. “It’s got to be a two-way street,” Ali says. “Allies have to be open to learning, listening and participating.”
To effectively communicate the results of the program firmwide, core members of EACH were divided amongst the various groups. Ali was happy to connect with Pride@ZS, our community of LGBTQIA+ ZSers, and support their events and interests in India.
One of the first events Ali helped plan was a conversation with a gender expression advocate who talked about their experience of being gender fluid in a corporate workplace. “This was new for ZS,” Ali explains. “Before this event, our India offices had never brought in someone from another organization to talk about their experience. I happily volunteered to moderate the show and be part of the conversation.”
By organizing virtual and in-person sensitivity workshops and community events, Ali helped raise awareness of Pride@ZS amongst India offices, expanding the group by over 20% in just three years.
In addition to supporting events, Ali leverages his role on the risk and compliance team to support policy changes for LGBTQIA+ ZSers. “I work closely with our legal and HR team to make sure our policies are more gender neutral,” Ali says. “For example, in India we have insurance that covers infertility treatments. By working with HR, we’ve been able to expand and promote that insurance will also provide coverage for both gender reassignment surgeries and pre- and post-surgery up to sum insured.”
Ali, along with Associate Principal Rishu Batra, HR Director Harsha Peter and the Pride@ZS team, have advocated for more gender-neutral language across the firm and formalized a self-disclosure process for ZSers who change their name, gender or both. Thanks to policy changes like this, ZS became the first organization in India to achieve an ISO 45003 certification by BSI, which recognizes the role of employers in protecting the physical and psychosocial health of their staff.
Ali believes pride is about every voice that was not heard, every experience that was considered taboo and every individual’s right to be themselves. He says, “It’s all about human life and the sanctity of it. Let’s stand together and fight the biases that exist in society and at least have ZS as a place where we will not entertain them.”
To learn more about life at ZS and how we support an equitable and inclusive workplace, follow us on social media.