I compliment the Voice of Woman survey effort across more than 3000 women at the workplace as its a step in the right direction and not a day too soon.
With POSH and Internal Complaints Committees being a legal requirement in all workplaces, the legislation in India today ensures that all workplaces have a secure architecture and guidelines are laid down to deal with cases of harassment, once they get reported. But “once they get reported” is the operative phrase. Harassment at the workplace can take many forms – overt and covert. A touch here, a bad look south of the chin, a slight brush, a slimy remark, a whatsapp joke that is in bad taste – these actions sound familiar and are far more endemic than we think. And the perpetrator can be just anybody. When it’s a senior person, then that is also abuse of power. Sometimes they emanate from a pure lack of character, but equally they emanate from lack of exposure and conscious and unconscious biases that are deep rooted in our psyche.
Fortunately, with increasing focus on gender diversity and inclusion at the workplace, many progressive organizations, including Indian companies are bringing in far greater awareness in their workplaces through various programs and initiatives. Chief, amongst these include sensitising men about conscious biases and workplace conduct and empowering women with information on their rights. Harassment at the workplace will also reduce when organizations have a more equitable distribution of power at every level between the sexes. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, it was estimated that at current progress levels, we will not achieve equality for women at the workplace even by 2087. Considering the magnitude of the problem and in order to accelerate equality, the UN Women has formed #HeForShe initiative which enlists male leaders from corporations, states and civil society to act as change agents in their domains.
Like in all walks of life, change begins with an individual. In case a woman is genuinely harassed at the workplace, she must come out and complain and have faith in the organizations redressal system. A strong woman with an authentic voice of her own is a powerful entity when the lines of conduct blur in the office. So, be your own best friend and join the movement for workplace equality and respect.