Crimes against women has been a worrying scenario all over the world. As we celebrate the International Women's Day, women's safety and integrity is an agenda on the portfolios of many campaigns. Amongst others, a corporate setting too can be a place for foul play with women.
Sexual harassment or sexism at workplace has been a key concern amongst women employees. Every company is implied to set up a committee to readdress the same.
How deep does this problem run in organisations? is the committee really effective in addressing this issue? Have they ever faced it themselves? We find the answers to these questions as we speak to the women in the industry.
Dr. Shikha Baghi Bhandari - CEO & Owner, Timeless Aesthetics
Sexism is everywhere and of course I have faced it in my career early on where people were not even subtle about their prejudices. Blatant disregard of my education and skills despite me being a specialist in my field, were simply demoralizing.
To combat that, I excelled in my field and proved to people that I am the best. It may sound sad or unfair that men do not necessarily have to prove their skill like women, but to change people's views, one must unequivocally become the best in whatever they do.
I am glad to say that I have risen to the challenge and made a name for myself. Now it's time to inspire the youths and my peers. That is why I am expanding my operations by opening clinics in many cities. This will create opportunity for many who don't have to worry about roadblocks like sexism or pay gaps.
Hardwork requires more than heart, one must be tough enough to face life's challenges. Women must work hard to reach certain heights where they get to make the rules. Once that is accomplished, sexism will be eradicated from it's root.
The most important thing to remember is to not repeat what men have been doing. Our priority has to be equality across the board.
To those who are feeling down, I say this, "Never lose focus and prove them wrong, because you can".
Bhakti Dalal - Founder, BDCC
Unfortunately, but thankfully, I’ve had only one experience wherein a certain client tried to undermine my ability to run my practice based on my gender. That’s when I decided it’s best to cut ties with a client who was more focused on my gender than my work quality. Sadly, I know of several independent women who run successful businesses who have been victims of similar instances.
This is why it’s important that women set the right expectations from the very beginning. It’s also important that women through their demeanour and conduct demand to be treated equally and rightfully. One can be polite yet assertive while putting a point across and these small measures can have a huge impact in the way a team or a client would approach you.
However, for this, it’s also important to adopt a professional conduct while interacting with team-members and clients. This could be in the smallest sense – avoid conversations post a certain hour (unless absolutely necessary), avoid conversations that disclose private matters, be mind of email etiquette; body language; tonality, dressing in a certain way, etc.
Shradha Vyas - Founder, Carpediem
Unfortunately, one to many times. Being in the industry I am, its shameful to say that its very common. People are more responsive when it’s a girl on the opposite call, rather than when it’s a man.
Even if the man is a Rockstar in sales, the girl has more chances of getting through because of the notion that has become the untold truth that sexism sells.
As I said, we do everything we can to promote gender equality, and infact we have more male BD’s than female, and we also send our female employee to the production site, so not only they understand what's happening, but also they become stronger as a person when they are in the field.
Vanya Chandel - Founder, Forfurs
Although I was running an organisation, during the initial few days I have experienced sexism. It was evident in the little things that the artisans in my workshop would do, like be hesitant to take orders from a woman and expect a male to be a decision-maker.
When I started my business, it was my passion project but these small things that you face can be bothersome in the beginning. It took me some time to get used to being comfortable in my role and I have managed to train and, even change my workforce wherever necessary.
It was mandatory to make those difficult decisions and hold my ground whenever necessary to make my workplace conducive not only to me but also to other women artisans.
When it comes to business, nothing can fully prepare you for challenges, you have to face them and if you don’t rise above your difficulty it makes your survival in the industry strenuous.
To maintain a healthy and functional workspace, I treat all my artisans and employees with respect and expect the same from them but if I feel someone is being sexist at my workspace, rather than turning a blind eye to it, I chose to have a conversation with them even if it gets uncomfortable.
If I don’t stand up for the things I believe in, I can’t expect anyone else to. I have to be the change I want to see.
Neha Puri - CEO & Founder, VavoDigital
I think a lot of women are still hesitant to show their confident side to the world because of the scare of how people will react, I think every woman who works at my organization is given equal rights to voice their opinion and to express their thoughts.
I think listening to everyone and not over talking helps an individual grow, because it helps you look beyond the judgmental instincts that you might have otherwise.
The world has become a more inclusive place now and what matters are the skill set and the dedication to bring to the table, it's no longer whether you are a man or a woman.
I have never personally faced any sexism at my workplace and I am working towards building a secure environment for every individual who is working with me.
For me, it's always been an evaluation of a role based on performance and giving everyone an equal opportunity at work. Alongside we have a very detailed clear guidebook for what is considered acceptable behavior.
Bunisha KhajaMohaideen - Co-Founder, Terabite Ekarts
No, I haven't faced such issues in my workplace. In general we can't say it's not happening in the workplaces but it's considerably reduced nowaday through awareness programs and organisation’s initiatives.
Women should be strong enough to voice out without any fear if such cases happen in their workplace so that we can take proper action.
In our startup we ensure that we will be alway open to hear such feedback from anyone in workplace and will take action on such cases if it's reported in our workplace and also its individual men's responsibility to treat their female coworkers as a friend and ensure their safety, only then we can make sure not to happen in any workplace.
Naina Aggarwal Ahuja - Founder & COO, Talking Point Communications
I took the plunge as an entrepreneur at quite a young age when most people would rather get into a comfortable corporate job.
My work is all about managing people’s reputations and communicating a brand’s messaging aptly to its target audience. This means I practically work round the clock.
Being a woman makes this a tad bit more challenging given the different things I need to balance on a day-to-day basis – from running the company, being the trustee of an NGO, managing home, and also finding the time to follow my passion.
However, what has kept me going in all these years is my ability to prioritize, set the right expectations across all aspects of my life, and staying true to my commitments.
I think being at the helm of affairs does not have anything to do with gender. It is about believing in what you have set out to achieve and going full-steam ahead with diligence and perseverance. Even during COVID-19, when most business sectors suffered a setback, I did not let it deject me. We kept it going and tried to look for newer avenues in times like these.
Dr. Malini Saba - Founder & Chairman, Saba Group
Sexism at workplace happens every day in a lot of small things; it is slow & toxic, a death by a thousand cuts. Positioning at predominantly held male dominated space is not been easy.
I have met the best minds and the worst, frauds and cons, been fooled & bullied, sexually harassed and assaulted. I focus on hiring mainly women to create a culture for women in all ‘boys club’.
The pandemic has intensified sexism challenges that women already face, working mothers have always worked a “double shift”—a full day of work, followed by hours spent caring for children and doing household labour. Now the supports that made this possible—including school and childcare—have been upended.
To curb sexism at workplace was not just about having one issue fixed, we tried addressing all the small things that add up to a bigger problem for women to succeed at work. We allow flexible work arrangements and focus on productivity and results, and not time spent at the desk. We support pay transparency & ensure that there are no gaps in our workplace by doing a wage audit.
We hold regular events, workshops, campaigns and also engage outside speakers to conduct sessions on discrimination, harmful behavior, defending & supporting women and building trust. To liven up these sessions we incorporate them into company retreats or other outings to associate it with fun events. We have expanded our services related to mental health, such as counselling and enrichment programs, and give training to help managers support the team mental health and well-being.
Chahat Aggarwal- Founder and CEO of Impact Study Biz
Yes, I have faced sexism in the workplace and I can go on and on about it. Sexism sometimes is so subtle that many a time one is left wondering if it really was sexist or is overthinking it. But trust me, 9/10 times it is sexist. And then there are situations of blatant in-your-face sexism. I remember once sitting in a meeting where a man kept talking to the male colleague throughout the meeting whilst completely ignoring me. It was supremely awkward to sit there and be treated invisible.
Coming to the second part of the question. Firstly, we are a women-led company. We have women across all functions and hence, I feel we subconsciously are ingrained with the principles of discouraging sexism in a big way. However, if someone feels they have encountered it, we give them complete right to red flag it then and there. No need for any further process. And of course, we will make sure to look into the matter thoroughly and take the appropriate actions. But luckily, so far our culture has steered us away from all such incidences.
Although this happens to both the genders, women are more susceptible to sexism and workplace harassment. Giving their promotion to a male worker or luring them into an early promotion offer, sexual favours for quid pro quo are some of the common incidents reported by employees.
Sexual harassment at workplace can be unnerving and can jeopardize the confidence and self esteem of the person going through it. An open door policy, a solid readdresal structure and empathy towards the victim are the key essentials to prevent the unthoughtful at source.