As more incidents of sexual harassment in the corporate sphere emerge from #MeToo in India, the discussion on making workplaces safer for women gets bigger. Only when an incident of harassment is reported do more stories come out in a kind of chain effect with everyone suddenly voicing their opinion.
Ever wondered why women who are independent, smart and can very well maintain a healthy work-life balance decide to keep such grave concerns hidden? Why do fewer victims and observers report any issues?
Lack of understanding
Most women perceive that the behaviour is not serious enough for them to take the next step and complain. For instance, there is a lack of understanding of what harassment is, the laws covering women safety and what they entail.
Lack of faith
Women tend to not report a complaint because of lack of faith in the complaints process. They may think that registering a complaint can be embarrassing and the complaint process would be difficult.
Fear of retaliation
Women tend to not report harassment case because of fear of retaliation by the harasser or organization.
Most women fear retaliation and the social stigma attached with cases of sexual harassment. They feel that they will be looked down upon if they report such a case, irrespective of who is at fault in that situation.
Women may prefer to take care of the situation themselves than go through the entire complaints redressal procedure.
Realizing the importance of the #MeToo uproar in India can enable companies to become more gender sensitive, and potentially discourage harassment at workplaces.
6 ways to make workplaces safer for women
1. Let women speak up
Encourage women to step up and speak to the relevant committee in the organization in case of any issues such as harassment and improper conduct and situation. In severe cases, which may be directed to the Government or any welfare committees, it is important to note that registered complaints are fast-tracked so that justice is served for the aggrieved women at a faster rate.
2. Institute gender-sensitization training
Corporates need to conduct gender-sensitization training and awareness programmes for both men and women across their operations. Besides providing regular training to employees, there exists a need for robust training modules in organizations that concentrate on gender discrimination. A grievance guideline could help a distressed woman in raising her concerns and solving problems.
3. Mandate appropriate work practices
Organizations often tend to choose productivity over safety, which could send incorrect signals to employees, especially women. Hence, the senior management of an organization should themselves be engaged and involved in making safety a priority. It is imperative that women employees see and experience the top management’s commitment to ensuring safe working conditions.
4. Institute safe working conditions
With a growing economy, working multiple shifts and late hours at the office are quite common. While men burn the midnight oil without too many security issues, the current environment may not permit women to do so. To manage this problem, workplaces can permit women to look at options such as telecommuting, leaving the office on time and catching up on unfinished work at home. Posting female security guards at necessary points in offices and providing for a basic pantry inside the office premises so that women employees need not venture out for dinner when working late, are other measures.
5. Deploy technology
Technology should be leveraged as an enabler to address workplace safety. Some examples include tracking public transport through GPS and installing CCTVs. In addition, organizations with internal pick-up and drop facilities can create certain policies and procedures to streamline safety measures — for example, conducting background checks of drivers before hiring them, ascertaining bus drivers or conductors wear non-tamperable photo IDs and frequently rotating the drivers.
6. Adopt a zero-tolerance policy
Organizations need to successfully demonstrate zero tolerance toward any form of harassment at the workplace. It should be embedded in an organization’s various policies and principles, such as the code of conduct.