Companies like HCL Technologies, Infosys, etc are known for their strict policies against sexual harassment of women at the workplace
You need to take a three-pronged approach, focusing on physical safety, protection from sexual harassment, and changing patriarchal mindsets
The recent spate of crimes against women has caused a nation-wide uproar and raised serious questions about security for women in India.
In September 2012, the Bombay HC observed that the responsibility of the safety of women employees lies with the employers. Hence, the employers should ensure that their women employees reach home safely. While this aspect of responsibility talks of physical security for women, which is an issue of concern, security for women needs a three-pronged approach: Physical security, security against sexual harassment at the workplace, and creating a good work atmosphere by enabling a mindset change in the workplace.
Research shows that most women employees evaluate safety measures adopted by the company before taking up a new job. Says Aparajita Srivastava, who works with a leading media house in Delhi, “Of course we worry about our safety. For me to be able to perform well, it is essential that I feel safe working with an organization.” Many companies provide cab facilities to their women employees to ensure they reach home safe.
Companies like HCL Technologies, Infosys, etc are known for their strict policies against sexual harassment of women at the workplace. Pratibha Bhargava, who had worked with Infosys in the past shares, “My present organization doesn’t deploy women employees in odd shifts because there is no cab facility here. While regular working hours take care of this, sometimes I have to work late. Since it happens occasionally, I don’t bother much. It is not only about pick up and drop off facilities. I don’t feel that much at ease in my present organization because it doesn’t have strong anti-sexual harassment policies like Infosys does.” Ensuring safe pick-up and drop-off facility for women employees is one basic step to win their trust and help them perform better. Occasional workshops on self-defense and providing safety equipment can be some other steps to ensure their safety.
A few companies like Quatrro Global Services have gone that extra mile to make their women employees feel safe. Quatrro Global Services uses GPRS tracking devices to track cabs that take their women employees home. Some companies even maintain a record of drivers and security guards accompanying women employees and share them with the local police.
Besides stringent security measures taken for their safety, it is important that companies realize the importance of making women feel secure. Stringent anti-harassment policies go a long way in making women employees comfortable. Richa Gupta, an HR professional with a Telecom company, says, “Women in our company enjoy free atmosphere where complains of sexual harassment are rare. I think the reason behind this is swift action against such complaints. We believe that in such cases disciplinary action against the accused helps in conveying the right message to all the employees.” Such exercises gain the trust of women employees so they feel free to complain about any harassment that they experience at the work place. On the part of senior management, it is essential to pay heed to these complaints. Stringent actions over such complaints also give a clear message to other employees about the company’s stand on sexual harassment. Such steps, however small they may be, contribute to building an atmosphere of equal opportunity for women.
Message travels from top to bottom
One important aspect of giving a safe environment to women employees is to accept them fully as a part of the work force. This is a message that clearly travels from top to bottom. Gupta says, “We make it a point that no one sitting on a leadership position has a biased attitude when it comes to women employees. If something untoward happens at a leader’s level, the action taken against him would be really harsh. Even people sitting on leadership positions know this well.”
If the manager or senior management discriminates against women employees, it becomes a part of the system. One cannot expect junior employees to treat their women colleagues well if the people at the top don’t.