The conversations about gender diversity and inclusion at the workplace have reached a crescendo of late. When we think of gender diversity at workplace, our first thought goes to how well are we doing on hiring women, what is our male to female ratio in our c-suite roles, what have been our misses in our recent women come-back programs, and how we can empower women to come out and raise their voice around workplace and sexual harassment?
Organizations around the world are constantly framing policies and processes and define gender diversity all about women. But does it mean they are eliminating gender inequality and practicing an inclusive workplace?
The practices and policies around women empowerment at the workplace are critical and essential; however, read below the following incidents:
- Earlier this year, in a one of its kind order, the Delhi High Court has imposed a cost of Rs. 50,000 on a woman for filing a false complaint of sexual harassment against her senior official and dismissed her plea challenging the benefit of the doubt given to him. The woman in her complaint had alleged sexual harassment by her senior in 2011. She had alleged that the man had misbehaved and made sexual advances towards her. It said the woman had claimed that the incident took place in the presence of the staff and other members, but during the inquiry proceedings, she could not give the name of any person present at that time.
"The petitioner has not mentioned the alleged comments of the man in the complaint on the grounds of modesty. The petitioner did not even disclose the alleged comments before the committee. The petitioner has given no reason or justification for not disclosing the same before the committee. The entire complaint of the petitioner appears to be false and has been filed with some ulterior motive," the court said.
- Perry Funk, a nuclear worker from Virginia, US, sued his employer because the management allowed a male co-worker to harass him for three years sexually. He said the company discriminated against him by allowing the harassment, which included regular sexual comments and propositions, to occur — and, later, by allowing co-workers to retaliate against him for reporting it.
- Earlier this year, an independent research firm Ipsos, found that 40 percent of respondents feel that false denunciations of sexual harassment are becoming more common here. More men felt this way, with close to half (48 percent) agreeing or strongly agreeing with the sentiment, while only a third (33 percent) of the women thought similarly.
A similar survey conducted in the US reveals that a whopping 55 percent were very concerned about women making false claims of harassment and assault. Another 27 percent described them as somewhat worried about this issue, resulting in 82 percent of men who are concerned about women making false allegations of harassment or assault at work.
The above incidents and survey findings are certainly worrisome for anyone invested in gender equality. Some may argue that organizations will have to put extra attention and invest in women employees and talent to empower them and to make them feel inclusive. It is evident for male employees to feel women employees are "treated specially." However, this is not the correct way to view gender equality.
For instance, in an earlier interaction with Deepika Bhardwaj, documentary filmmaker and social activist, she shared, "A man cannot complain of sexual harassment. What's defined as verbal, physical, mental sexual harassment as per the law can happen both ways. The law doesn't recognize female as a perpetrator, and this is true of all gender-based crimes in India. I feel as though the law doesn't recognize, companies should have gender-neutral policies. One problem with dealing with cases where men complain is that they are too scared to complain. Because even if they do, a woman can turn around and say it is he who harassed him and turned the tables on him. A case shared on Twitter recently by a man is a witness to that. I have also handled a case where a girl has incessantly stalked this young boy, but then he can't complain because if he does, he fears a rape case."
Last year, a senior executive of multinational professional services firm committed suicide. The executive, was accused of sexual harassment by two employees at the firm. He in his note said that the allegations made against him were wrong and he had been under psychological pressure after the company suspended him till the probe against him was completed. He was also asked to leave the company until the company investigates the said matter. According to reports it was found that no show-cause notice was served upon him and that he was merely summoned on December 18, before his shift, and served a suspension letter. (The matters is sub judice).
Organizations need to pay special attention to the needs of all employees while it initiates a policy or process that is advantageous for a specific group of employees. It is also required that how will organizations handle a situation if a beneficiary of a policy misuses the power and harass or sabotage someone's profession or life.
The policies and rules drafted should be made, keeping in mind both the genders; otherwise, the consequences can prove to be cataclysmic.
(The above mentioned information is sourced from secondary resources and the facts and opinion appearing in the story do not reflect the views of People Matters. )