Source LinkedIn : By Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw
Dear friends and colleagues,
Today, women can be seen in greater numbers in what were previously perceived as “male-dominated” professions. Attitudes towards women at the workplace have changed a lot from the time I started Biocon in 1978 as a young, 25-year-old woman entrepreneur, with no business background and limited financial resources. Professionals did not want to work for me as they felt that I could not provide them ‘job security’ being a woman, and some even assumed I was the secretary to the Managing Director (MD) and not the MD. Suppliers told me they were reluctant to give me credit because they did not have confidence in my business abilities. Banks and financial institutions were reluctant to fund me and some even suggested that my father should be the guarantor for any loans.
While there is a higher acceptance of women in the professional context now, certain gender biases still persist. When a woman dares to speak her mind, demands respect and equality, she is often perceived as a threat by her male colleagues. A bold woman is often prone to sexual harassment.
Tackling Sexual Harassment at the Workplace
In order to discourage sexual abuse and ensure safety of women at the workplace the formal Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act was introduced in 2013, which mandated every organisation with more than 10 employees to have a policy for Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal of sexual harassment at the workplace. It also directed companies to have an internal committee to look into the complaints of sexual harassment. However, it is not enough to just provide a grievance redress mechanism.
Organizations need to adopt a ‘zero tolerance’ attitude towards sexual misconduct and put strict preventive measures in place. An annual certification program on prevention of sexual harassment should be made compulsory for all employees. Gender sensitization and behavioural workshops should be run to train employees on how to conduct themselves responsibly and with propriety. We have found that these workshops help employees understand what they need to do when confronted with such a situation. A few years ago, we further strengthened our employee policy on prevention against sexual harassment by introducing a mandatory annual e-training which prepares them for handling such situations for themselves or for other colleagues.
Men need to respect women as fellow workers and colleagues. They need to be sensitized about the fact that sexist and off-colour ‘jokes’ that stereotype and objectify women are unacceptable.
Women should be encouraged to fearlessly fight gender discrimination and sexual harassment. They should also be empowered to confront a harasser whenever they encounter sexually inappropriate behaviour.
Women also need to be mindful of the fact that their behaviour is in keeping with professional propriety and that they work shoulder to shoulder with male colleagues without demanding extra privileges being a woman.