Corporate Profitability through removing biases against women

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India is a young nation of aspirations and growth. Ever since the 1991 Policy of Liberalization – Privatization – Globalization, it has witnessed a tremendous growth in the Private Sector, in terms of monetary investment, developmental strategies, Public-Private Partnerships and emerging best practices. In order to suit the dynamics of the transient economy, a multisectoral approach helps us analyze these changes better. Despite the influx of Educational Institutions and professional exhilaration in the coming generations, the abundance of population has been able to contribute little in terms of human resource output.

According to the Skill India Report, 2016[1], India had witnessed a minor increase from 37.22% to 38.12% in the Employability Index. An industry oriented survey makes conspicuous the talent demand and supply gap in the IT-BPM Industry, pointing out the fact that though the “Industry-Ready Workforce” accounts to 32%, the polished “Job-Ready” workforce is meagerly 4.5%.[2] This implies that despite having abundance of prospective employees, the workforce to suit the efficiency and effectiveness of the dispensation is inadequate. Therefore, at this point in time, it becomes expedient for the Companies to understand the scarce availability of human resources and hence, the impending necessity to attract and retain the proficient workforce; critical in globally competitive environment. In order to do that, companies have been investing a handsome amount of money which translates into various employee benefits (apart from the statutory obligations).

In this article, I propose that prevention of sexual harassment at workplace, creation of an environment that is devoid of any sorts of gender-based biases is something that is not just elementary to a healthy society, but also gives an impetus to the employee retention initiatives taken by the Companies.

Industries Gender Diversity Percentage
BFSI Male 68.69
Female 31.31
BPO, KPO and ITES Male 69.7
Female 30.5
Consumer Goods and Durables Male 73.74
Female 26.26
Core Sectors (Oil and Gas, Power, Steel, Minerals etc.) Male 80.81
Female 19.19
Engineering and Automotive (Auto and Auto Components) Male 84.85
Female 15.15
Hospitality (including Aviation, Tours and Travels, Hotels) Male 71.72
Female 28.28
Other Manufacturing (not including FMCG, CD, Engineering and Automated) Male 83
Female 17
Others and Diversified Male 66
Female 34
Pharma and Healthcare Male 59
Female 41
Retail, E-commerce, Transport and Logistics Male 77.78
Female 22.22
Software and IT Male 64.65
Female 33.35
Telecom and allied Male 70.71
Female 29.29

India has borne the brunt of orthodox patriarchy since quite a long time. Women have been tormented under the guise of dignity and ornate veil of honor. If noticed closely, we realize that women have had a fair share of contribution in terms of economic reaps for the family in the agrarian society. However, with the changing times, in the battle with the menaces of the likes of Sati, Parda system and Child Marriage, their role was reduced to that of being the veiled tapestry of obedience.

After independence, Government of India realized the importance of a nation that exists in absence of gender-based prejudices. Various acts were passed by the legislature, like Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 and Equal Remuneration Act, 1976. And yet, a problem that lingered, and still haunts the pride of our civilized society is that of sexual harassment of women at workplace. It is shameful for a country like ours, which personifies the nation as ‘mother’; that women still fall prey to sexual harassment at workplace in the modern times. If Dr. Krishna Kumari’s report is to be believed, “In recent years, there has been an alarming rise in atrocities against women in India, Every 26 minutes a woman is molested. Every 34 minutes a rape takes place. Every 42 minutes a sexual harassment incident occurs. Every 43 minutes a woman is kidnapped. And every 93 minutes a woman is burn to death for dowry.”[1] We at Indian National Bar Association, in order to achieve its motive of a nation that thrives without any gender based biases, has conducted a survey on Sexual Harassment at Workplace. The survey results horrified us when we came to know that about 38% of women face sexual harassment at workplace. 68.9% of these women affirmed to refraining from lodging a complaint due to the fear of embarrassment. 26% of the participants agreed to have had faced the brunt of lewd remarks of sexual natures. This, in itself, is scandalising.

Article 11 of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)[2] mandates (‘Shall’) it for all the State Parties to terminate all sorts of discrimination against women in the field of employment. It stipulates provision of social security, equal remuneration and proper maternity benefits. If understood in totality, prevention of sexual harassment is an inalienable part of the dignified employment opportunities so substantiated by the moral and legal ethos of the legislative tools of enforcement.

In fact, Hon’ble Supreme Court, in Vishakha and Ors. V. State of Rajasthan and Ors[3] laid down the principles that need to be adhered to, by the employers. In defining sexual harassment, the apex court has went further to enumerate, that not only physical touch/sexual advances or asking for sexual favors is an offence, but even showing pornography, innuendos and unwelcomed remarks (eve teasing) etc. amounts to sexual harassment.

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal) Act, 2013 received the assent of the Hon’ble President of India on April 22, 2013. This is a landmark piece of legislature because this is the materialization of the spearheaded efforts, by the three pillars of democracy, to create an environment devoid of such unethical corrosion. It mandates formation of an Internal Complaints Committee[4] by the employer. In fact, half the grievance-seeking members need to be women. In my opinion, it’s a multi-layered decision. At one end, while this provides for women to be more comfortable in sharing their experience; on the other hand, it’s symbol of modern-day feminism where women are seated at the adjudicating bench of dispensation. S.4 of Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, mandates that both the genders should be paid equally for the same kind of work done by them. It further mandates that sheer compliance is not adequate in absence of just wages. Therefore, just in order to comply with this act, the employer cannot bring down the remuneration to be paid to the employees. In fact, subsequently in the act, the government has to form an Advisory Committee, that is to suggest the dispensation about numerous ways of involving women into mainstream professional realm. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, has recently been amended in 2017, whereby, the benefits accruing not just to pregnant employees, but rather female employees who have legally adopted a child (below the age of 3 months)[5], have found place under S.5. S.4 of the principle act makes it binding on the employers to not employ any woman for six weeks immediately following her delivery/miscarriage. Government has been taking steps to substantially strengthen the multi sectoral and interdisciplinary gender institutional architecture[6] for removal of such biases. It needs to be understood that it’s not just about adherence to the statutory compliances but additional efforts need to be made to retain the talent in the company.

However, despite the existence of Conventions and Legislations, the peril is still cantering through the society, unhindered, mostly because of the apathy, unawareness and impermeability of the unorganized sector.

Given the disproportionate demand-supply ratio of appropriate workforce and cut throat global competition among corporations, the Companies need to stringently monitor the application of the statutory requirements within the existing framework and go beyond. In order to fight the disparity of employability, apart from the statutory compliances, the Human Resource Department particularly needs to imply additional tools of maintaining these standards. In these times, the burden is not just on the Legal Department for such Compliance, but rather, from CEO to the board level, the whole organization needs to be sensitive in its policy implementation.

There needs to be a substantive change in the stringency of application of Law. Companies need to be more vocal in terms of implementing such policies. Proper records should be put forth in the public platform for the internal and external stakeholders to analyze. Transparency mechanisms should be in place. At the same time, there needs to be an opaque veil of secrecy for the whistleblowers, in order to penetrate through the crux of the problem. It needs to be understood that apart from adhering to the statutory obligations, companies need to actively participate in the sensitization process. Filing of reports in terms of how many complaints have been registered and satisfactorily disposed off, Open-Door Policy, Zero-Tolerance Policy are the few tools that directly need the top management’s scrutiny for the subordinate personnel’s adherence. We need extraordinary zeal among new generation to put an end to this electrifying menace.

[1] Krishna Kumari, Areti, Violence from Cradle to Grave (March 12, 2007) Retrieved from: https://ssrn.com/abstract=970171 on August 15, 2017 at 11.30 a.m.

[2] Part III, Employment – Retrieved from: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/text/econvention.htm on August 15, 2017 at 11.48 a.m.

[3] AIR 1997 Supreme Court 3011

[4] S.4, The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal) Act, 2013

[5] The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017

[6] National Policy on Women, 2016 (Draft)

[1] Skill India Report, 2016, Pg 7, retrieved on August 18, 2017 at 11.15 p.m.

[2] Analysis of Talent Demand and Supply, 2016 – NASSCOM (National Skill Development Corporation), Pg 38