Women’s History Roundtable September 2018: Diversity and Inclusion in the IT Sector by S Shakthi

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Shakthi’s paper examined the Diversity & Inclusion policies in the IT sector. She talked us through the processes behind how and why gender policies are framed, with a specific focus on  workplace sexual harassment in the sector. Her presentation was based on her research and fieldwork analysing how the 2013 law on sexual harassment is interpreted and implemented by IT companies in India.

Tracing the growth of IT sector in India, Shakthi spoke about how the it has become an important driver for India’s economic growth in the recent years. With 34% of employees (i.e. about 4 million employees) being women, the sector’s workplace sexual harassment policies provide interesting insights. Using semi-structured interviews, Shakthi was able to gather data from a variety of employees at various levels in the organisation, including non-managerial junior employees, managers and key members from a diverse group of stakeholders.

Unlike the Vishakha Guidelines, which only prescribe rules to make workplaces safe and are not binding, the 2013 Act makes it legally binding for companies to put into place  a number of measures to address workplace sexual harassment. However, there are a number of inadequacies in the conceptualisation of the Act as well as its specific articles. For example, the Act lays emphasis on the formation of an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), rather than searching for ways to change the broader workplace culture. In this way, the Act focusses on the nitty-gritty of procedure to address complaints, but does not foster an inclusive workplace environment.

Shakthi noted that in order to change the overall climate of sexism in the workplace, companies need to go above and beyond the minutiae of the articles in the Act (such as the formation of ICCs and provision of cabs for safe transportation of women employees). Simply adopting these concrete measures is not enough to address the larger problem of workplace sexual harassment – which continues to be trivialised.

While acknowledging that the Act has helped bring the topic of workplace sexual harassment into the realm of public discourse, and that women feel emboldened by it; Shakthi noted that it is still riddled with loopholes. One example is the ‘false complaint’ clause. Conceptually, it is seen as a way to safeguard alleged harassers against false accusations by (mostly) women, who are portrayed as being likely to use the Act as a tool of ‘revenge’. Shakthi critically pointed out that this clause overlooks the power dynamics in a corporate environment. These unequal power dynamics are not based solely on gender. In her interviews, Shakthi found that the role of caste & language in creating hierarchies in the industry was significant. Additionally, the use of acronyms like POSH – prevention of sexual harassment – also trivialise the issue.

After a broad examination of the Act and its shortcomings, Shakthi’s paper also touched upon the specific local conditions that affect the execution of workplace sexual harassment policies. Factors such as structural inequalities, the importance foreign clients ascribe to adhering to laws, and brand image management. These factors affect the implementation of the Act, as the ICC factors in the interest of the complainant, status of perpetrator in the organisation, the company’s market status, and media coverage while overseeing complaints.

The Act, unfortunately, has little information on how to train people and who should be trained on workplace sexual harassment guidelines. It also empowers corporate agents (rather than the judiciary) to mete out punishments for acts considered criminal offences in India. Interestingly Shakthi’s paper also talks about the impact this has had on ICC members. Responses ranged from “emotionally draining” to a “sight of tension” as members grappled with the challenges of taking on the role of proxy judiciary.

 

This report was compiled by Nandhini Shanmugam and Sweta Narayanan

#GenderEqualityElectionWatch: Manifest(o) Misogyny: The INC Manifesto for the Himachal Pradesh 2017 Assembly election

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Election Manifesto 2017

In Himachal Pradesh, the Congress is seeking re-election so their manifesto opens by asking: Why the Congress again in 2017? The answers are not very persuasive, the content repetitive and the language weak. But never mind, because this is a gender audit and what we really want to know is what the Congress is promising to women and what its approach is to gender issues. On that note, in the introduction we are told that with the UPA, schemes have been introduced and implemented for the welfare of every section of society including women. They have gone, we are told, beyond the promises of their last manifesto. The introduction reassures us that women will be provided with respect and safety.

The Congress manifesto has a section “For Women” in which it promises:

  • Academic support to meritorious girl students.
  • Hostels for working women in cities.
  • Pension schemes for orphaned girls, girls and women with disabilities and widows.
  • Appropriate justice and administrative measures to fast track cases of harassment and misdemeanours against women.
  • Access to credit for self-employed women.
  • Self-defence training centres in every district to train women.
  • Women’s police stations in every district.
  • Anganwadi Centres in every village to take care of women and children.
  • Expansion of the free ambulance service for pregnant women.
  • A ‘Woman Safety Application’ will be operationalised for women’s safety.
  • Women’s organisations will be strengthened in every way.
  • The grant given for the marriages of the daughters of widowed women will be expanded.

Under the category of health care, it is promised that more women will be trained as nurses.

Overall, there is less text devoted in this manifesto to women (as compared to the BJP) but women for the Congress are students, workers and entrepreneurs. They are professionals—police and nurses. Their health-care needs, at least as mothers, are addressed. Self-defence and safety are addressed here, rather than the patriarchal attitudes that lead to violence, but the tone is less paternalistic.

Talking gender equality at election time (1)

Going by the Prajnya Gender Equality Election Checklist however:

  • Again, the numbers of candidates are low.
  • It is not clear how much support they are getting.
  • Misogynistic speech is a non-issue.
  • There is no promise to end impunity or to bar those who are charge-sheeted for crimes against women.

#GenderEqualityElectionWatch – Himachal Pradesh Elections 2017 – Where are the women candidates?

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This 3-part article is written for prajnya.in as part of the Gender Election Watch Project on Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat elections

Earlier this week, I and Dr. Swarna Rajagopalan from Prajnya began to investigate gender statistics on the forthcoming Himachal elections that are due to take place on the 9 November 2017. Subdivided into 12 districts and 68 Assembly Constituencies (ACs), the state will witness a single phase election. Electoral battles are often a face-off between two key national parties – the Indian National Congress (currently led by the incumbent state Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (led by Prem Kumar Dhumal). With little space for a third alternative, voting remains largely restricted between these two parties; both parties assembled a total vote share of 81 percent in the State Assembly elections in 2012 which the Congress won.

voting

File photo from India News. http://bit.ly/2iNxZyM

An unforgiving observation, however, is the disproportionate gender imbalance in the electoral mechanics. So far, our research has identified merely 15 women candidates from three major parties contesting in the polls – 4 from the Congress, 8 from the BJP and 3 from BSP vis-a-vis a total number of 400-odd male candidates. Although the list expands to 20 when we include independent women candidates, yet the ratio of men to women contestants have remained disproportionate .

No Name of the Party Number of Candidates contesting
1 Bahujan Samaj Party 32
2 Bharatiya Janata Party 68
3 Indian National Congress 68
4 CPI/CPI (M) 30
5 All India Trinamool Congress Data not available
6 Nationalist Congress Party Data not available
Total Number 198*
Total Number of Women candidates 20*

*Based on nomination data from the Chief Electoral Officer, Himachal Pradesh

In the Himachal state elections since the turn of the century, the number of contesting women candidates contesting have remained roughly around 8 percent. In other words, for every 100 people contesting in an election, there are merely 8 women candidates. Elected women candidates average roughly around 6 percent of the total 68 elected representatives in the Himachal State Legislative Assembly. Interestingly, the figure was the lowest in 2012, when only 3 women candidates were elected alongside 65 male representatives.

https://infogram.com/gender-election-watch-himachal-state-assembly-elections-2017-1gqo2qn3kvgw278

This statistic is further intriguing considering how female voting numbers have been traditionally higher over the last three assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh. In 2003, 2007 and in 2012, the percentage of female voters was nearly 75 percent vis-à-vis male voters who were nearly 70-71 percent. Why are parties not fielding more women candidates? The state is yet to see a women Chief Minister.

Where are the women contesting from:

No Party Name of Women Candidates Place they are contesting from
1 INC Asha Kumari Dalhousie
2 INC Viplov Thakur Dehra
3 INC Champa Thakur Mandi-Sadar
4 INC Anjna Devi Una
5 BJP Reeta Devi Indora (SC)
6 BJP Sarveen Shahpur
7 BJP Indu Bala Palampur
8 BJP Kamlesh Kumari Bhoranj (SC)
9 BJP Vijay Jyoti Sain Kasumpti
10 BJP Shashi Bala Rohru (SC)
11 BJP Neelam Nayyar Chamba
12 BJP Vinod Kumari Chandel Doon
13 BSP Pinki Devi Nagrota
14 BSP Saroti Devi Barsar
15 BSP Manjana Devi Jawali
16 Indpndt Nirmala Chauhan Karsog
17 Rashtriya Azad Manch Renuka Dogra Kullu
18 Indpndt Roshani Sharma Mandi
19 Lok Gathbandan Party Paro Devi Sarkaghat
20 Indpndt Kumari Vandna Sullah

Does the system discourage women from participating? What seem to be the barriers to entry? We find that reservation for women candidates can encourage more women to contest and win in elections. The results of the Panchayat and Zila Parishad elections – where reservations apply – illustrate this clearly, as a 2015 State report highlighted:

“In Himachal Pradesh there are 3243 Gram Panchayats, out of which 1639(50.54 per cent) seats have been occupied by women in the 2011 Panchayat elections. Out of total seats occupied by women, 987 (60.21 per cent) occupied by general women, 421,(25.68 per cent) scheduled caste women, 104 (6.34 per cent) scheduled tribes women and 127 (7.74 per cent) occupied by OBC women. Similarly, out to total 77 Chairman Panchayat Simities seats, 42 seats (54, 55 percent) of the seats in this category have been occupied by women. Among total seats occupied by women in Chairman Panchayat Simities category, 20 (48 per cent) occupied by general women, 13(31 per cent) by scheduled caste women, 4 (9 per cent) by scheduled tribes women and 5 (12 per cent) occupied by OBC women. Out of the total 12 seats chairpersons of Zila Parisad seats, 6 (50 per cent) of the seats have been occupied by women in 2011 elections.”

End of Part 1. Part 2 will track media coverage of these women candidates, and Part 3 is a post election piece.

Stats calculated based on public available data on candidates, and from previous Election Commission Reports.  

#GENDEREQUALITYELECTIONWATCH: Uttarakhand

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Again, this is getting written on election day in Uttarakhand. What that means is that it will largely end up being an account of numbers–how many women and how many mentions in a manifesto. The lack of consistent, everyday monitoring means that we do not get to track campaign speeches for misogyny. This election watch project has also missed out on checking out criminal charges of candidates. Notwithstanding these shortcomings, I would say it is worth finishing what we started so here is a gender analysis of the election in Uttarakhand.

How many women? 

Last update: Feb 15, 2017
Assembly size: 70
Source: elections.in
Seats contested Women nominees
Samajwadi Party 51 NA
Uttarakhand Kranti Dal 70 NA
BJP 70 5
Congress 70 9
BSP 24 1
Rashtriya Lok Dal 3 0

What is left to say about the low percentage of women nominees?

Gender in the manifestos

As hard as it is to find gender sensitivity in party manifestos, it is hard to find the manifestos themselves. What is the point of a manifesto that cannot be easily found in the public domain? It must be to minimises traces of promises made and the opportunity cost of accountability.

Based on a news report, the Congress manifesto promises 33% reservation for women in government jobs. The other promise with gender transformational potential is to set up five aapda mitra (in every village?) or disaster relief workers. If 2-3 of them were women, that would alter the face of disaster mitigation, relief and rehabilitation in Uttarakhand. However, we have no way of knowing more.

The BJP manifesto, also culled from a newsreport, includes a cash gift to girls: “Rs. 5,000 for every girl child born in poor families” and a removal of the age bar for widow pensions at Rs 1000. Very interestingly, it promises that, “The opinion of all women on triple talaq will be taken and placed in front of Supreme Court.”

For the other parties, there did not even seem to be reports on the manifesto release. Did they not bother?

#GenderEqualityElectionWatch: Goa

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It’s voting day today in Punjab and Goa. The one-person team doing this election watch exercise has proven inadequate to the task of genuinely monitoring the election season.

Nevertheless, here is a post on the Goa election season.

Last update: Feb 4, 2017
Assembly size: 40
Source: http://www.elections.in/goa/
Seats contested Women nominees
INC 27 3
BJP 29 1
NCP 5 1
AAP 36 4
Shiv Sena 4 0

Manifestos for Goa were released rather late, going by press reports. Is that because they were considered irrelevant to the outcome? That would also account for how hard it has been to locate them (full-text) online. If manifestos don’t matter, why draft them? Finding the full-text version is important to a gender equality audit because gender provisions and promises are usually platitudes and do not merit mention in press releases and reports.

The BJP’s Goa manifesto could not be located online after a careful search that included the Goa BJP website and Twitter account. The search for the Congress manifesto yielded this tweet, the first explicit reference to safety I have seen. Nothing shows up for the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party.

The Aam Aadmi Party had begun announcing its candidates as early as August and they have the only easily-located manifesto of the lot. It looks like the manifesto is the product of a dialogue process (the cover says “Contributed by 350+ Goa Dialogues”).

The AAP Goa manifesto opens with a listing of four social welfare schemes to benefit women–Saksham Asturi, Rs. 2500 a month for skill development; Ladli Laxmi, 2 lakhs for young women; Mamta Scheme, 50,000 for girl children; and Grih Aaadhaar for families. Each of these is described in greater detail in the text.

The AAP manifesto specifically calls out misogynistic speech by Goa politicians and for this, receives full marks from this Gender Equality Election Watch: “Women in Goa are known for their entrepreneurial spirit which the past Governments have absolutely overlooked. It is high time that women here are provided the right environment to flourish financially and socially. Their resolve and vigour is almost unparalleled across the country but instead politicians have not left a stone unturned to verbally and physically insult women [emphasis added].

Check out their other promises which show breadth in their thinking: Women are workers, need access to health and justice  at all life-stages and social safety nets. They are not imagined just as mothers or as economic actors.

aapss

Goa is voting as I write this post. Let’s see what happens.

#GenderEqualityElectionWatch: Election Eve Punjab Report Card

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Women candidate tally

Last update: Feb 2, 2017
Assembly size: 117
Source: http://www.elections.in/punjab
Seats contested Women nominees
S. Akali Dal 94 4
INC 117 11
BJP 23 3
BSP 18 0
AAP 117 9
CPI-ML (Liberation) 8 0
Trinamool Cong 15 2
Punjab Front 15 0
Apna Punjab Party 86 4

Manifestos

We’ve already discussed the Congress manifesto here.

The Shiromani Akali Dal manifesto mentions the enhancement of two existing schemes, the Shagun scheme where the government gifts a poor family a sum of money upon the wedding of a daughter and the Babe Nanake Ladli Beti scheme where families receive a sum upon the birth of a daughter. In addition, under the header ‘Women’ they promise free ‘swing’ machines to all girls/women who pass Class 10, bicycles to graduates and 33% reservation in rural and urban local government institutions including Panchayati Raj and Municipal Bodies. Finally, the highlights list sports training and stadia in every district under the header ‘women’ and promise government jobs to sports medal-winners.

The Aam Aadmi Party has released several manifestos in Punjab, for youth, for farmers and for Dalits, and all three are gender-blind except for a Shagun scheme of their own, mentioned in the farmers’ manifesto. Its final comprehensive manifesto contains a section on ‘women’ which fares better than the other parties’ attempts:

  • “33% reservation for women in jobs. Women employees will preferably be posted in their home district.
  • Salaries of Anganwadi workers/helpers, Asha workers and Mid day meal helpers salaries will be doubled. Women hostels in every district.
  • Special Police wing to crack down on menace of ‘Holiday brides’ and domestic abuse.
  • Suraksha button on every mobile phone with emergency connectivity with Punjab Police via Wi-Fi.
  • Special Fund for women and children of victims of domestic violence and abuse.
  • Money to be adjusted against maintenance granted by courts and will be recovered from husbands or those responsible for paying.
  • 100,000 (one lakh) toilets for women in public spaces. 
  • Swift and effective justice in Crimes Against Women. Fast track courts to be built and made functional.
  • Women employees will be given child care leave and provided crèche facilities at the work place.”

It wasn’t possible to locate a full-text version of the BJP manifesto but the press release everyone carried stated, “On the education front, the manifesto assures making free the studies of girls till Ph.D. level.”

Overall grade

It is impossible to endorse any Punjab political party as being singularly committed to gender equality, but a cursory glance suggests that in terms of nominating women, Congress and AAP lead but AAP’s manifesto indicates that there are more people in AAP thinking about meaningful inclusion than there are in other parties.