Lit

The Future Of The Workplace is Feminist

According to Deloitte’s 5th annual Millenial Survey, two-third of the surveyed millenials (in India) expressed the wish to leave their organisations by 2020. Interestingly, some of the factors that make the market-based young workforce more likely to have a positive attitude towards their employers are:

  • Creative, inclusive working culture (76 percent) rather than a more authoritarian rule-based approach (49 percent)

  • Open and free-flowing communication (47 percent versus 26 percent)

  • A culture of mutual support and tolerance (42 percent versus 25 percent)

What a surprise! Sounds like nobody wants to work in an environment that fails to provide a safe space for all the parties involved in the process of production. But this is no news. Although the survey was undertaken to measure the millenials’ “loyalty to their current employers” but it gives us a clear insight into the question of safe space policies practiced by the Indian organisations— it is either in need of a world of improvement or is pointing towards a complete destruction of capitalism.

Nevermind.

In another survey conducted by Breakthrough, from June-August 2014, showed that 92% women had experienced sexual harassment at some point of time in their lives while 67% of them had faced harassment on a daily basis. Yet another study revealed 10% fall in the participation of women in the country’s workforce this year— one of the reasons being lack of access to higher education among women.

Lack of privileges coupled with general apathy towards the other sex create a seemingly unfavourable environment for the urban working woman. Even after acquiring higher education the ones who make it to the male-dominated work-spaces often get derailed one way or the other. Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 has broadened the definition of sexual harassment at workplace by including physical contact and advances, demand or request for sexual favours, sexually coloured remarks, showing any pornography and any other unwelcome physical, verbal, non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature under its fold.

In fact, these staggering statistics based on gendered violence read in the light of dissatisfaction found amongst urban workers point towards the importance of identifying micro-agressions, toxic masculinity that go on to perpetrate rape culture in workplace. Identification of these violent behaviour(s) is imperative to the culture of mutual support and tolerance practiced towards people belonging to other genders and/or non-gendered and gender non-conforming people.

Bangalore-based Illustrator, Malvika, currently working in a health tech startup, in a scathing Facebook rant takes on the issue of safe spaces in workplace harping on the importance of discussing feminism at workplace. She says, “it’s seen as a conversation to be had outside of the workplace. So people try to minimize the time they spend discussing it.”

Athough direct sexism is often called out but acknowledging and condemning borderline-sexism and micro-agressions is something that needs to be practiced more. When asked if any specific incident triggered this post, she replied: “It was a build up of incidents and then reflection. Minor but infuriating incidents and just an observation of attitudes of my colleagues. Somehow everytime it comes as a surprise to me when there is sexism at work. I just find it hard to imagine that we’re all on the same page on so many topics but there’s so much ignorance about gender issues.”

Here’s the text in full:

To be professional, I have to be feminist first.

To elaborate – discussing feminism at the workplace is not a separate or bonus conversation to have. It is integral and foremost.

In other words – it is ok to halt work at the workplace to have a conversation about gender. It will not affect productivity. In fact, I repeat, to be professional and productive, I have to first be feminist.

If I see you as a whole, able person at the workplace, I have to be sure that you see me the same way. Regardless of my gender, I am in it to win it, just as much as you. NOT until ‘life takes its own course’ or until the words ‘too ambitious for a girl’ finally get to me. No. Please reject that culture and let’s build a new one.

If we first address our biases, our presumptions, our confusions, awkwardness, fears, and work around them, I know that our productivity will flourish like never before. Sweep these under the carpet or resent your team members and these thoughts will occupy the back of our minds and exhaust us.

Enforce feminism to create a safe environment. Let’s not create a divided team where when a tasteless joke is cracked, one half sniggers and the other half rolls their eyes. But also, some cradle and cover an abusive history in an effort to fit in but don’t feel safe enough to say “That’s not funny and it will no longer be effortless to talk to you alone, even if it’s about work.”

Do I take offense too easily? Yes, that’s right. Would you tolerate the slightest oversight in my work deliverables? My expectations with our work culture is analogous. Communication is the stream that carries our work forward and I take offense to it becoming murky.

I spend a large chunk of my week away from loved ones in my workplace, as do you. I want to optimize that experience, not regret it because the cost of spending this time here is a huge trade off.

I feel if we practice feminism as a culture here, by thinking twice before we follow our biases, we take it back as a learning to our homes, families, friends and personal lives. It no longer becomes a matter of passive tolerance like “Damn, are these ladies going to snap at me if I crack that borderline sexist joke here? I’ll save it for later”, it becomes ingrained in the blur that is the reality of personal-professional lives. What is sexist at your workplace is probably sexist anywhere else too, good reason to not practice it in the presence of your partner, mother, father, sibling, best friend.

What I’m saying is, on my most optimistic days, I see the workplace as a school of feminism and the center of setting examples that we carry home to our children, partners, parents, society at large – even if out of habit.

Give it a thought. At the end of the day, we do our jobs. You make what you make and I make what I make. But it’s a real sad use of the potential of our educations if we don’t make a difference.

The Future Of The Workplace is Feminist.


Malvika Tewari is a designer based in Bangalore/Baroda. While design keeps her disciplined, writing and illustration provide her a space to explore her favourite themes – transgression, macabre, humour and make-believe.

Article by Debarati

Edited by Siddhesh

Featured Image: Lit by Malvika Tewari

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