A screenshot of the panel discussion on the occasion. Image: Rajani K, ICRISAT

Collective effort, irrespective of gender, need of the day for better, safer workplaces for women

A screenshot of the panel discussion on the occasion. Image: Rajani K, ICRISAT

A screenshot of the panel discussion on the occasion. Image: Rajani K, ICRISAT

Gender parity cannot be achieved by putting the onus of it on one gender; joint efforts by everyone are needed to create a safe, equitable and nurturing working climate for all. Our female colleagues across levels and regions came together to exchange personal experiences and give inputs for solutions to some of the issues, on the occasion of International Women’s Day 2021.

In contrast to last year’s IWD celebrations at ICRISAT headquarters, this year it was a completely virtual event, for obvious reasons. However, there was no dearth of insights from women employees on the key areas of concern for every woman in the organization, and on how to deal with them.

Dr Jacqueline Hughes, Director General, began with a call for greater equity and fewer biases (conscious and unconscious) in the organization. “Even on farmers’ fields,” she said, “If we can empower the women farmers, we can hope to narrow the existing yield gap between men and women farmers.”

In a panel discussion on “From Challenge Comes Change and Opportunities”, women delved into the good and bad experiences during their career.

Dr Caroline Hambloch, Value Chain Specialist, Zimbabwe, underscored the issue of abuse at the workplace, asking that all women learn how to recognize even subtle forms of abuse and know how to get support to deal with it. She advocated speaking up against all forms of abuse, not just for oneself, but for others also.

Dr Jummai Yila, Gender Research Scientist, Mali, said that women often hesitated from asking for ‘privileges’ that men did not hesitate to ask for, as they were not sure if it was right under specific cultural context. Therefore, clear guidelines on the what rights all employees have would make things easier for women.

Ms Swati Jain, Head, Internal Audit, Hyderabad, asked that women’s contributions be measured by the outputs they delivered, not by the hours they spent in the workplace. She also felt that women needed to pay extra attention to their own health and not ignore their wellbeing while playing multiple roles of worker, caregiver etc.

Ms Joorie Bhattacharya, Research Scholar, Hyderabad, was of the opinion that responsibilities and merits were not dependent on gender; hence gender should never play a role in deciding responsibilities or roles. She related the positive impact that her mentors (male and female) had in shaping her research career so far.

Solutions to some of the issues mentioned were the sensitization of the entire workforce towards the challenges faced by women at all levels, and the creation of an environment where any wrongdoing could be fearlessly reported. The following ideas were also put forth by the panelists:

  • Due credit to be given to researchers for their work, irrespective of gender or position.
  • Greater awareness in the workforce about various policies that support women during adverse situations e.g. the Speak Up policy, which according to a survey, less than 20% of the staff were well-versed with.
  • Everyone stands up to support any employee who is in trouble so that collective efforts bring resolutions more quickly.
  • Narrowing of the pay gap and career gap between male and female employees, starting with undertaking an audit.
  • Fostering a work culture of openness and empathy.
  • Using gender-inclusive language, proactively ensuring women are mentioned, e.g. saying ‘women and men farmers’.

The panel discussion was moderated by Ms Joanna Kane-Potaka, Assistant Director General – External Relations and Executive Director, Smart Food.

It was clear that, as Dr Hughes said, “Our diversity is our strength. We should all strive to protect it so that we can reap the benefits of an equitable world.” International Women’s Day was observed on 8 March 2021.

Reported by: Rajani Kumar, Sr Communications Officer, ICRISAT

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