On 18th March 2017 , Global Workforce Management organised HR Roundtable at SP Jain Global School of Management on ‘Engaging gender equality for organisational success’. The event was graced with HR Leaders from top firms, addressing the burning questions.
The discussion was divided into two panels with ‘Engaging Men to drive Diversity’ and ‘Putting women on the driver’s seat’. Interestingly, the focus was not just into framing women friendly workplace policies but also creating a safe conducive environment for them to work. In the wake of incidents such as Uber and The Viral Fever, deeper questions arise beyond merely creating an ICC or PoSH Committee!
When we run the programs of hiring women in great numbers are we looking at it as an event or are we backing up with the supporting actions too? Such as a question was asked by Brilliant Head of HR Times Centre for Learning to Anirudh Khekale , Group Director HR Emerson Process management India , where a huge number of women were recently hired, “What would be the workforce management plan when all these women take 6 months maternity leave?” Interestingly, Anirudh responded, “We have already accounted that, which is why we went ahead and hired them. Inclusion doesn’t stem from a policy but your constant Leadership through every situation.” For a large organisation, it could be easy to arrange different formats of work including Telecommute and a greater talent pool to re-distribute the work till the women workforce resumes office. For the smaller organisation, which wants to count this as a cost they can’t bear, the choice remains on finding a way out. An interesting point on this was raised by Surabhi Mittal, CHRO Lanxess , “What will such firms do when ‘Maternity leave’ gets redefined to ‘Parental leaves’ and men start availing them too. Will they stop hiring men as well?” Nipa Modi, Director (Secure your Credential), said ‘Right at the interview when we ask a woman if she is married, in case she is, if she planning for a baby, creates the inequality. In India it is still legal to ask such questions. Hence, we instill fear in the minds of a potential talent long before we hire them!’
Anirudh Khekale , Group Director HR Emerson Process management India raised a question on what an individual can do to create a balanced environment? His question hits that right note at a point of time we are creating 33% reservation for women to ensure inclusivity. Are creating roles for women enough? Would designing policies keep women back? The diversity programs to increase the number of women in the organisation across the continuum is creating balance of power through balance of choices.
My question is how far would balance be created unless the basic safety isn’t restored? When we have cases like The Viral Fever, with the owner to the firm announcing he has the best of legal firms to his support, what is the message we are sending to the world at large? Is it the Predator who threatens the safety or is it the protection that he receives from the power centres supporting him? What will happen if a predator becomes as vulnerable as the survivor? What happens when his social clout is gone? We had few very brave men coming up to support and strengthen all those 50 women helping them to voice their ordeals. No matter how much we applaud these men, it will never be enough! It took them months to convince the women to speak up. When they had started the effort they never knew if it will ever, see the light of the day! Yet they continued. There is still not enough light at the end of the tunnel and no one knows how long will it take before the women finds justice! Most of these men will remain anonymous to support more such women out of such situations. Hence, they don’t stand to get any reward, let alone any recognition of their effort! Advocate Rizwan Siddiquee set the course right with lodging an FIR . All these men are sending one strong message, that there is help available if the women can reach out to them!
But is that enough? What exactly will bring in gender equality at workplaces? Will those programs on Diversity succeed, till safety is restored? What does it takes to let a woman in an organisation voice a concern without any fear that questions her livelihood or the stigma? Can we have enough employers who are ready to hire these talented women, in case they contest and lose their jobs? If we can provide continuity in employment will that strengthen more voices to speak up? When we deal with such complaints , can we ensure enough confidentiality in the processes? There would be no stigma, if we can learn to respect the strength these women show! Finally, can we have men shattering the Bro-code to strengthen these women? What does it take for the men in companies like Uber and TVF or men around any predator to speak up? Would covering up an indecent behaviour with a statement such as ‘Duniya hain, hota hain” [it’s normal for such things to happen] look good, when it hits the news paper? No lies remain hidden for long, no crime unknown. Today, a news no longer needs a media house, to shake up the world. What trends of the social media hits the headline like a wildfire. Exposing misdeeds breed trust. Once a complaint hits the headline, it leaves no room to hide. If a bunch of anonymous men can bring in such a big difference for Uber and TVF, shouldn’t the power centres around the predator find it easy? Real inclusivity is when men show up to foster and safeguard diversity!
About the Author
Nabomita Mazumdar is a social evangelist, Founder to Nabomita.com. She is a TEDx speaker and addresses forums around the world. An alumna of XLRI Jamshedpur, she has been awarded various honours such as ‘100 Women Achievers By Ministry of Women and Child Development’, ‘Top 25 Influential Women on Twitter’, and ‘Top 100 Tech Influencer’.
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