by Swaha Katyayini Ramnath
Gender at Work in collaboration with the Institute of Social Studies Trust and Heinrich Böll Stiftung India held a panel discussion on ‘Gender Equality at the Workplace in India’ in September 2015. The panel was moderated by G@W’s Country Director for India, Sudrsana Kundu and comprised speakers from different sectors. Reiko Tsushima represented the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Harpreet Kaur represented the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre in New Delhi and Kalyani Menon-Sen spoke from the perspective of an independent feminist researcher and activist. The panelists engaged in a rich discussion that addressed gender issues spanning across the organised and unorganized sectors as well as those that are present in a technologically advanced workplace.
Reiko primarily talked about time poverty for women due to the unequal sharing of unpaid work and the wage penalty levied on women as a result. She highlighted the importance of de-gendering carework so women can build economic agency in the market. Harpreet discussed the divide between women’s visibility and voice in the workplace, that women’s representation does not necessarily guarantee equality and dignity. She spoke about how each unit involved in a global value chain is responsible for maintaining gender parity. Kalyani drew attention to the fact that despite public intervention, visible gender inequality persists. She stressed that workplace cultures need to change, and that changing organizational culture means changing individual minds and practices. Despite technologically progressive aspects of working like telecommuting, for example, there was very little uptake on such work-life policies. She emphasized that a crucial component of changes in the workplace is a proactive leadership. Simultaneously, employees should attempt to understand their organisation’s value by evaluating the extent to which productivity and efficiency are linked.
The discussion explored the need to redefine ‘work’ by building equality into the bedrock of the concept of ‘work’. By examining the workplace in households, factories, corporate offices and shop floors, the nuanced interchange captured the essence of a cross sectoral dialogue.