At a recent session on gender bias and its impact of team performance, I had a participant speak up the following- “We understand gender diversity is important and all that, but don’t you guys take it too far? I mean, women get all the privileges anyways don’t they, It’s us men who need support now!”

In that one statement he had slotted me as the harbinger of corporate feminism… But, I was glad he spoke! Isn’t it this that needs to be solved anyways…

I engaged further and he quoted the following examples-

1.     A lady team member proceeds on maternity leave for 6 months, and possibly for longer if she wishes to utilize her other accumulated leave, or in case she requests for a special sanction for special reasons. Now, the team leader and the team are saddled with additional work of one more resource for a longish period of time, and of course, we can’t drop any ball. It gets stressful for sure….so if a team leader does not wish to increase the number of female team members, is he really wrong?

2.     A second instance where a male manager now fears giving performance feedback to a lady team member in a cabin, alone, because he fears a harassment allegation?

There were several more, but let’s stay with these two since they are linked to recent legislations. Are the maternity benefit act and the POSH (Prevention Of Sexual Harassment) act wrong?

What really is the issue here?

In my view, these are both very well intentioned and much required legislations. However, it is the maturity with which they are implemented that might fall short. If these end up being divisive policies, they would only end up widening the gap and creating a men vs women battle.

For instance, what does the organization do to help a team leader with resource planning while the female team member is on maternity leave? How the does the organization support and recognize team members who take on additional responsibility? How does the organization ensure that the lady on leave does not lose her position or get a poor rating simply because she is on leave.

Or  how does the organization instill awareness among its male and female workforce on what is POSH or how does it instill confidence of being ‘fair and just’ in its implementation? Are it’s managers truly trained to handle queries raised? Is the committee comprising of individuals who can conduct a thorough and fair investigation?

More importantly- the act starts with the work “Prevention”. What is being done to prevent the cases?

Just compliance is not enough. Organizations need to put enablers around these in place. Only then these legislations will aid in the journey of building an inclusive workforce.

Otherwise we will keep grappling with such questions and this will end us as men vs women (already is), as opposed to Men & Women against gender bias!

Author: Soncia Aron

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