5 months after #MeToo, where are we?

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This International Women’s Day, we chat with the superwomen of the M & A industry, to understand the changing workplace dynamics post the outbreak of the #MeToo movement in 2018. Let’s take a look at the #MeToo India impact.

“While companies are taking a more substantive approach to workplace sexual harassment and are taking due process seriously, women in the corporate world are feeling more empowered,” observed Anita Nayyar, CEO India, and South East Asia, Havas Media Group.

The MeToo movement shook the whole of India where more and more women came out in open with their ordeal. Social media made their voices reach every house and stood in their support because it was TIME.

For the unacquainted, it all started when in October 2018 actress Tanushree Dutta accused veteran actor Nana Patekar for sexual harassment on the sets of movie ‘Horn OK Please’ back in 2008. It was followed by many names- some prominent like Alok Nath, Sajid Khan, and Piyush Mishra,  with names from M & A world with allegations of abuse against them at workplaces and otherwise.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, five months after the #MeToo movement gained momentum in India, Social Samosa talks to fiery women from the M & A world, who share the on-ground impact of the movement and what still needs to be done.

The Change- Post #MeToo

The one implication of the outbreak was that the companies got onto implementing POSH Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and taking into cognizance the tremors felt by women at work.

“The biggest impact was that women who were scared to come out with their stories fearing social branding or lack of support from the people around them, finally got the courage to stand up and talk about workplace sexual harassment” shared Bindu Balakrishnan, Country Head, DCMN India. The workplaces which always dealt with such issues in a hush-hush manner and swept things under the carpet were forced to take concrete actions.  

“The larger learning from this movement was for organizations to come up with a full-scale plan to avoid any such occurrences in the future and make the workplace a safe place for all, especially women,” asserts Srija Chatterjee, MD,  Publicis India.

On that front, Publicis Groupe has strict policies and procedures in place that are meant to protect and treat every single employee with respect and dignity. They have an Internal Complaints Committee set up in the Publicis Groupe. The group conducts regular workshops on recognizing and resolving issues of sexual harassment at work.

Chatterjee informed that the Publicis Groupe is also encouraging its employees to speak to senior management or the HR team freely. They can raise any questions or concerns around any kind of workplace misconduct be it health and safety, sexual harassment, equal opportunities or any other type of work-related issues.

Nisha Singhania, Co-Founder, and Director, Infectious thinks that there has been a very positive impact of the movement. “Women also probably know that they no longer have to put up with any form of harassment and can escalate an issue that is bothering them.”

Meanwhile, Rubeena Singh, CEO, iProspect India feels that there is much more awareness among people – and men are careful about what they say, how they say or what they do. Interactions among colleagues have become more professional and a strong message of zero tolerance policy has been sent out by the companies as well. Trainings are being held at regular intervals to ensure that ignorance/cultural differences do not lead to incidents otherwise avoidable.

As India’s #MeToo moment gathered steam, we saw different reactions from different companies. Some re-evaluated policies, some lawyered up. Employees across several media and entertainment companies and powerful men in senior leadership positions were either sacked or put on leave. “Many women now know what constitutes sexual harassment,” said Anita Nayyar.

Echoing similar views, Ashwini Deshpande, Co-Founder, and Director, Elephant Design shared that many people in leadership positions got conscious of the gravity of issues women face while working or traveling in isolation with their male seniors. “Probably some border-line predators got a bit shaken and checked their behaviors,” she noted.

#Metoo has given courage to many silent sufferers and previously unspoken stories surfaced. Unfortunately, very very few women want to follow up their stories with the official or legal course for fear of losing jobs or being excluded from better opportunities.  The fact is that most of those who were named either strongly denied charges and threatened the complainants or are downplaying hoping for the dust to settle down. Unless we are able to create a long term agenda for an atmosphere of empathy & inclusion, this problem will persist and predatory behavior will not be curbed.

What Next? 

As per the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2018, India ranks 108th in WEF gender gap index. It recorded an improvement in wage equality for similar work. Nayyar thinks that there is a need for more women in senior and professional roles to reduce gender parity.

Today, more and more women are joining the workforce as companies look to lessen the gender gap and have a diverse mix of employees. However, when it comes to compensation gap, it still exists in most industries and there is enough third-party research to corroborate that.

“Having said that, when it comes to M&E industry in general and digital (media and advertising agencies) in particular, I think the gap is a lot lesser,” shared Singh.

Also Read: #MeToo Movement hits the Indian Media and Advertising Industry

Garima Khandelwal – Chief Creative Officer, Mullen Lintas too thinks that the gap will take a while to fill, having a working environment where women can feel secure, come out and speak up without any fear. Also to know how many of the allegations made were actually true will also help the cause, so it’s not forgotten as a fad.

“The problem is very large to go away immediately,” quips Singhania. “To my mind, the only way to eliminate it is to have a proper gender balance.”

Better opportunities, due benefits, credit for good work, pay package, authority for decision making – Despande lists down all the factors women are at a disadvantage. According to her, creating awareness among men and women leading to acceptance of gap would be the most challenging first step. 

India is well below the world average when it comes to equal representation of women in the workplace. The gap needs to be bridged at every level, stressed Balakrishnan. “Coming to the #MeToo movement, it’s important that the momentum is kept going and companies continue to take steps to make women feel more empowered and safer at work and come up with policies to foster that.”

The ADVICE

This Women’s Day, our experts and fellow superwomen put ahead a special message and advice for the world to make it a better place for them.

Anita Nayyar: Do not judge a woman by her clothing or her appearance, judge her by her talent, her skill, by the content of her character. She is by no means the weaker section. Do not treat us (women) any differently.

Srija Chatterjee: It’s easy to listen to everyone else and believe in their truths, but you will truly be heard only when you listen to and stand by your own voice. Keep trying till you find it and never let it go once you do.

Rubeena Singh: I would like to highlight that women make up 50% of the potential workforce and bring to the fort a certain set of skills, characteristics, and perspectives which are valuable. Gender diversity only enriches the quality of discourse in an organization, making it stronger and more successful. 

Ashwini Deshpande: Though the problem may appear as it belongs to women, everyone needs to wake up to the fact that unequal, unfair, unsafe workplace puts the entire community at a disadvantage and would eventually reflect poorly on the bottom line of a company.

Garima Khandelwal: Being a woman is your biggest strength, be proud and go forth

Bindu Balakrishnan: Its time women are recognized and given the rightful place they deserve. Give them the same growth opportunities and the chance to reach the top. Give them the same remuneration for the same amount of effort as the guy standing next to her. Above all, give your daughters the confidence that they can be whoever they want, support them, nurture them.  

Nisha Singhania: My message to women is this attached poster which is prominently displayed above my desk always. 

women day


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