An anonymous blog against the TVF founder accusing him of sexual harassment went viral and other female staff then came forth to share similar experiences of the toxic work environment. Susan Fowler, former Uber engineer, was the catalyst who spoke up after the human-resources team systematically ignored her reports of sexual harassment for a year. There have been mass firings at Uber over a culture of sexism.
Sexual harassment at the workplace undermines a woman’s right to equality, livelihood and opportunity. Therefore in 2013 the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act was passed by the Indian Government. This Act is unique because it covers both the organised and unorganised sectors under its ambit.
So what would you do if you find yourself in such a spot? What if your work environment is so toxic and you are required to take some action to stand up for what is right?
Here are 5 tips to counter a culture of sexism.
1. Define clear boundaries
Call out attention when you are uncomfortable immediately. Do not take banter and jokes lightly and only in passing if you are uncomfortable with them. You have to take the call about when it is fine to have a cup of coffee with your colleague and when those requests for coffee become more frequent and nagging. This is necessary because larger repercussions follow only from little things, so it is better to nip situations in the bud before they take a significant form.
2. Separating the professional from personal
Some may suggest it is ok to get involved with someone emotionally at your work place. But this decision should come after a hard look at whether it is worth the risk. The wisdom of keeping professional and personal lives separate has stood the test of time and has some solid truth to it.
3. Rise above the rumour vine
Often the culprit of sexist intimidation is rumours and gossips along the informal grapevine. A casual handshake or coffee machine small talk can be escalated to character assassination by the gossip mongers. So beware of those who gossip with you, because they gossip about you as well.
4. Know your rights
Most organizations have Internal Complaints Committee and they are often helpful. Sometimes all that is required of you is to garner enough guts to approach them. In the case of TVF, while the blog brought the issue to light, legal action could only be taken after a formal police complaint. Mumbai based Elsa D’Silva, an expert in the field, says, “with POSH in place women should not hesitate to escalate any grievances. If they are unclear what constitutes sexual harassment, the Act specifies the behaviour that is inappropriate as well as the situations that make up a hostile work environment. Threats implied or otherwise, or promises of reward for sexual favours (Quid pro quo) are also covered”.
Often is it humiliating to discuss your situation with others. But it is always helpful to talk about it in a safe environment. You might meet other females at work who have faced similar problems and learn from their experience. You might get corroborative support in favour of your integrity and good character. So don’t shy away from help.
If you need further help and support, there are many groups out there who are doing great work in equipping girls to counter toxic work environments. For instance, Safecity conducts workshops and lectures to train women.
These 5 tips will help you to avoid and counter sexual harassment at work. It is better to be aware than sorry.
Do you think these suggestions are helpful? Share your view in the comments below.
(image credits- Pixabay, Giphy)