Ideally, a safe and gender-neutral workspace is an intimate and safe gathering of people (from various walks of life) in a creative and liberal space, where people can openly discuss and express their ideas without being objectified, discriminated or penalized. This should not just be limited to office space but also outside of it, like – work trips, workstations, client-based meetings, etc.
Why is it essential to have a gender sensitive and safe workspace?
The societal vision of gender is continuously changing. The traditional male and female identities and roles are now being debated and re-defined. In the current gender identity discussion, it is imperative to create workplaces that support and enables the ownership or acceptance of the discourse of gender-fluidity.
Gender inclusion advantages of building a diverse workforce mean – a colorful mix of stories, energies, background, and experiences. This can collectively have a positive impact on productivity, growth, and development. Besides, it may also help in bridging a gender divide that is there in our society. However, inclusiveness needs to go beyond just hiring people from diverse backgrounds. Organizations need to approach diversity differently, which means creating a safe, thoughtful and accommodative workspace that genuinely reflect the corporate culture and values, and allow people to grow with the organization.
Three ways to create a safer work space for all genders
Thankfully, the gender discourse in workplaces is finally taking a meaningful shape in India. Organizations are taking steps towards making workplaces that are more conducive to all gender such as, workplace safety, and comparatively a more open approach to workplace harassment, compared to what it was in the past. Here are the three ways to create a safer work space for all genders.
- More Focus on the Language of Communication
When we work together as teams, in a confined environment in more than 7 or 8 hours for every day of your life, the lines of interaction becomes a blur, and things get informal. It is in the vulnerable times like this where we need to analyze what are we saying carefully? And whom we are saying it to. One might be comfortable to use slang and abusive language with your colleagues, but those slurs might be outright derogatory to people around you, and people who might be listening to you. In this, management plays a vital role in sensitizing its employees and encourage them to be open-minded and inclusive to all.
- Proactive Training and Development
According to sociologist Dr. Zuleyka Zevallos, “Gender relations in the workplace require active and ongoing management. It means offering mandatory equity and diversity training as a condition of employment. It means providing a safe avenue to routinely check in with women and men to ensure that gender exclusion is being addressed – using regular surveys, interview research, mediation, and other organizational evaluations. It means providing formal avenues for women to access mentorship and other professional support. It means drawing on social science tools to regularly measure the progress of your workers at both an individual and organizational level.” This training could start, as soon as an employee joins the company. The company can inculcate this practice in their orientation/ training stage along with booklets and audio files.
- Include External Evaluators
Many independent social scientists, consultants and organizations work in the space of gender equality in the workplace. An external consultant can help you understand the gender dynamics of your organization from an objective point of view and establish training needs (if any). Such preventive measures can help stop the ridicule and penalization due to escalation.
However, there can also be a need of tech driven solution to an issue like this. A tech that uses scientific methods to analyse policies or behaviour, point out problem areas and educate employees and managers to recognize deep-seated issues. A well encrypted and secure technology that records, recognises and gives reliable solution makes experience sharing, archiving and counselling (to clear misconceptions) easy not only for the organisation but also the individual who is in doubt.
OurHealthMate (OHM) is a health-tech startup that aims to provide holistic wellness solutions to the organization all over the world. For them, an unhealthy and unsafe workforce can disrupt the mental health of an employee, which will directly hamper the productivity of the organization. OHM believes in overall wellness, and safety of the workforce is the top of their priorities.
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