Chennai-based start-up connects transgenders with inclusive employers

Her neatly painted nails are restless as they fiddle with her white-and-pink saree. She smiles distantly and recollects the journey before she was hired.

Published: 22nd May 2017 01:32 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd May 2017 03:28 AM   |  A+A-

PHOTO: ASHWIN PRASATH

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Her neatly painted nails are restless as they fiddle with her white-and-pink saree. She smiles distantly and recollects the journey before she was hired. Regina, an engineer by education, struggled to find a job of her choice. Her resume floated from one company to another and she was almost always called for an interview. The interviewer’s polite smile always changed to a puzzled look when they saw her education certificates, which bear a different name and gender.

Regina returned home from these interviews after being promised that she was highly employable and would receive a call. “They almost never did. They think it’s less risky to appoint a ‘normal’ man or woman to do the same job,” she says, remarking that she used to feel replaceable.
The pattern finally broke when she met Neelam Palrecha, founder of Peri Ferry — a non-profit organisation that helps transgenders and inclusive companies find each other. Her acquaintance with Neelam landed her a job with the accounting team at Kolapasi — a takeaway restaurant.

“While there are several non-profit organisations working for transgender welfare, Peri Ferry has managed to penetrate all networks in a very short time,” says Regina, adding that Neelam ensures candidates get placed in a profession of their choosing. Neelam follows up with the candidates after every interview to understand the market better.

Neelam previously worked in a multinational commerce company in Bengaluru a year ago, which announced that they were going to engage in social work. Employees were asked to pitch ideas that could be implemented. Neelam, who always empathised with the transgender community, proposed a way to empower them through employment.

“I designed an employment model that would build a freelance platform for transgenders to work with corporate giants. The model didn’t work owing to several reasons. But it received appreciation from senior colleagues,” says Neelam. She never stopped improving the model.
After nearly a year of brainstorming, Peri Ferry was born in April. Neelam and her team run the company from a co-working space in Mylapore. “We target companies that have about 30 employees as it’s easier to sensitise smaller workspaces. We particularly encourage young transgenders because the number of educated candidates is highest in the 18-28 age group,” says Neelam, remarking that education is crucial to get jobs with a decent pay.

Nanditha Ravindar, the soft skills trainer, says while education ticks the eligibility boxes, preparing for the interview is harder. “Soft skills training is no different with our clientele. Some need to improvise their communication skills and others have to work on corporate etiquette,” says Nanditha.
She believes most clients assume they won’t get the job or that they will not even be taken seriously. “One of our clients felt extremely intimidated as she had walked into a corporate space with cabinets and ACs for the first time,” she adds.

After training, the next step is to map the candidate with the employer. “I simply ping people on social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook. If companies have branded themselves as inclusive, they would’ve already received a bunch of messages from me,” she laughs, saying nothing works better than gentle spamming.

To minimise one-to-one sensitisation time, creative director and photographer Steevez Rodriguez documented various employers reacting to the resume of employable candidates before finding out about their gender.
Peri Ferry currently runs on the savings of the team, not external sources. “We’re looking for professionals who could work on our website and, perhaps, with the arrangement of the sensitisation programmes in various locations,” says Neelam.

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