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“She has a good figure”: Why creating a safe workplace takes much more than sexual harassment policy

Source | LinkedIn : By Swati Jena

I was chatting with a colleague, a woman HR Director, about some conversation she had with other business leaders, all men. She mentioned a word they had used to describe something that was happening in office at that time. I wasn’t familiar with it, so I asked what it meant. It was a cuss word with serious sexual connotations. I know her to be a person who doesn’t even use swear words, so I asked out of curiosity, if she felt comfortable.

It seemed that many conversations she was a part of involved usage of such language, and she could not really afford to object to it, even in the mildest way.

“It will effect my relationship with the business leaders(men), which I have worked very hard to build. They will not be as friendly with me, if I object. So I bear with it.”

This is not a stand-alone case. I have come across many women describing variations of a similar experience that they may have had.

  • An adult joke, sometimes the woman colleague being a character in the joke itself
  • Someone complimenting figure and curves in a way that feels more uncomfortable than a complimentin the way it is worded or said

And then other trespasses like:

  • Standing too close
  • Trying to give a hug, when you are only on “handshake” terms
  • Behaving inappropriately at a office party, under the pretext of “Oh, I was drunk”
  • The famous roving eye, and its cousins

One of the worst invasion of space I have personally witnessedwas this induction event with 40 men of which there were 2 women.

The session was being held at a conference room, which had separate toilets for men and women. Somewhere after the first break, men seemed to have taken a unilateral decision that just 2 women did not deserve to have a toilet to themselves, while the remaining 40 men, had to manage with two. So they all started using the women’s toilet, aswell – just like that.

The list is endless.

So here’s the problem, and there are two:

Firstly, safe workplace is not just safety from “sexual harassment” – it is alsosafety from “gross acts of insensitivity”.

Secondly, most women just grin and bear..

Read On….

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