Saturday, April 15, 2017

Why safe workplace for women is a myth and will remain so.

Headlines about sexual harassment at workplace are in the limelight lately. But, sexual harassment in the workplace is not new and is rampant everywhere. Safe workplace for women is a myth and going to remain so. Before all you HRs start barging in justifying how efforts are made to create a safer workplace for women or how fantastic your workplace is when it comes to women safety. Please read through.

Almost 69% women do not report sexual harassment at work. Understandably so, because some of these behaviors seem to be harmless and are deemed normal, and most women don't know how to deal with it even if it makes us uncomfortable.

The unwanted attention someone showers at you, a colleague stopping by your desk all the time for a small conversation ( which you clearly don't want to have), someone asking you for a coffee break all the time in the company canteen specially when you are alone, you being called 'baby' ' sweety', clients calling a female sales representative for a meeting because they are 'female', those uncomfortable stares. There are numerous ramifications of harassment at workplace, it is not always "physical" or clearly "verbal". In such cases what do you report? Who do you report to?

And this is not going to change because as a culture a "little flirting" has been normalized. He has just asked you out for coffee you know you got to network, your boss calls you sweety, he is a friendly boss so on and so forth. But the problem is graver than you think because as a society we have been told if you step out into the world this is bound to happen, and we should learn to 'deal with it'. So you see this is not a workplace problem. This is a cultural issue of our society. Because people you deal with in workplace will not magically change their behavior or start believing that a certain behavior is NOT OK because it's an office. And, this cultural shift is going to take I don't know how many years or decades or centuries and celebrating "women's day" once a year is not going to solve the issue.

And, we cannot wait for a 'godmother' to wave her magical wand and change the society. So, the only way out is we should take charge.

Now, a colleague you are 'comfortable' with asking you out for a coffee or stopping by your desk to have conversations is normal but the operational phrase here being someone 'you are comfortable with'. Just because you are friendly with one does not means you would want to be friendly with everyone. And, as cliched it may sound 'it is your choice'

So ladies, please don't 'deal with it' because it's bound to happen CALL IT OUT. You don't like to be called 'sweety' make it known. You don't like a certain colleague's unwanted attention or small talks 'tell them so' you don't like someone commenting how pretty you are every day 'say so', you know the 'business meetings' mean no business, don't take them. Be firm, be clear. Anything that is making you 'uncomfortable' is NOT OK.

So, whether cultural change happens today, tomorrow or decades later you ought to take action now. Be vocal, be bold.





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