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Why do Indian women have to put up incessant fight to assert and defend their 'identity' at work places?

October 13, 2015

Indian women, paradoxically worshipped as goddesses while being victimized by rape, infanticide and discrimination and harassment at workplaces have always struggled against an archaic system that continues to privilege age-old patriarchal social structures characterized by male dominance.

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Women’s literacy rate has climbed to 65.46 percent, opening new economic opportunities for them. However, societal attitudes towards women remain unchanged, which adversely affects their safety and well-being. Despite professional achievements at the workplace, women have to continuously exercise coping strategies against sexism, marginalisation and invisibility. An article from the Indian Journal of Gender studies aims to examine how this affects women’s life and work.

A recent survey conducted by Opportunity Now that reported more than half the number of female employees experienced discrimination at the workplace. The article highlights some of the notable instances of gender discrimination and sexual harassment of women civil servants by their male colleagues or superiors, such as Kiran Bedi, the first female Indian IPS officer was overlooked for promotion as Commissioner of Delhi police. It also includes case studies of three women civil servants in the state bureaucracy, covering their work–life experiences spanning more than 10 years. It refers to their identity as a civil servant in a comparatively safer service, but where they still face gender discrimination, sometimes blatant and sometimes subtle.

The article concludes on the note that silence about workplace discrimination is a serious indictment of the organisational culture and ethos. Vigilant organisations keen to tap and retain the best female talents for professional excellence must ensure women’s security and fair play. There is a need of attitudinal changes, organisational policies that offer protection to women at the workplace and effective implementation of the law as an instrument to transform workplace discrimination faced by women. Workplace experiences and negotiations that women have to make in order to be ‘seen’, ‘heard’ and acknowledged reveal that the workplace and family are tension cusps that require conscious coping strategies.

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