As MeToo got massive support from media in India, women jumped and spoke pointing fingers at their supposed tormentors, probably seeing this as an opportunity to be heard and to get justice. Secretly on the other hand there is a shift taking place, a dangerous shift. Translucent films from conference rooms are being removed, closed door meetings with women are being avoided, travel arrangements aren’t just based on business needs but whether a women is travelling along or not, misconduct underperformance and development discussions aren’t really limited between the manager and the women, they have a third individual too, and there is talk going around on whether the email data of exited women employees need to be kept in safe custody for an elongated period of time.
As I move around talking to senior business leaders it is not uncommon to see the vulnerability the senior leaders feel when interacting with women employees. As one individual put it beautifully, even income tax defaults can be reviewed till a certain period of time and then we have the opportunity to present my case, whereas in cases like these, Twitter Justice is instant, without any boundaries and the degree of punishment purely dependent on one’s luck.
I don’t think MeToo ever wanted this, a wild west situation where everyone is to themselves, where the audience is really interested in the drama and who won in the drama rather than who gets justice.
It is surprising to see many large and so called ethical companies trying to administer first aid, whether it be Facebook, Google or closer home the Tata’s, all are perceivably concerned at ending Sexual Harassment of Women and state they will ensure women get respect, dignity and all that their corporate communication teams ask them to promise.
But, the fight isn’t at the superficial level of being sexually harassed, the fight isn’t about the individual opening the door to a young professional in underwear, the fight is much deeper, and that is why many more men and women relate to it and rally for change, even if it is so myopic that it has to be only for sexual harassment victims.
The fight is about subjugation, it is about supressing the voices of the non-powerful, it is about equality and it is about fairness. It doesn’t matter if a women says she was sexually harassed by an all-powerful boss, what matter is the way systematically and culturally she was denied justice, what matters is the feeling that she lived with every day that she is a inferior human being in her own country.
This is what I relate to, and this is what countless other relates to, it is not only about sexual harassment, it is about the mindset of supressing the voices and the volcano that needs to erupt before the voice is heard. Every person would have faced this torture, and their heart cries out to the Sexual Harassment victims saying, I too suffer along with you, I too am reminded everyday that I am an inferior soul, and I stand by you in the hope that we will eventually, one day, be able to speak up against oppression and live a life of equality.
MeToo isn’t about sexual harassment alone, it is about countless others too who go through various forms of suppression at their workplace and are supressed, terminated, bullied, harassed or transferred just because they dare to be equals.
Corporate India’s fancy titled Global Heads need to look at their justice dispensing systems and not at winning a Diversity Award. It is time corporate India became a little accountable about humanity and equality towards their employees.
Mandeep Singh is a Partner with HRhelpdesk, a Boutique Human Resource Consulting firm.