In a typical urban workplace today, you’d find a good number of women employees. It might not even be stretching it too far if I said women comprise almost half of an ordinary private company’s workforce. It is not so surprising as it was say in the 70s, when a woman going out to work was a rare thing, and if you watched Bollywood movies from that era such as Choti Si Baat, you’d see that they mostly worked as clerks and secretaries, being stalked around town, and eventually falling in love with their stalkers.
It’s not the 70s anymore and women are being trained as engineers and corporate professionals, verily desiring to make a career for themselves in their chosen fields. But they are still being harassed – stalked, attacked, stabbed, near their work places, and even at their workstations.
On January 29, 2017, a woman techie working with Infosys in the Hinjewadi IT Park near Pune was found strangled at her workstation. This woman was working alone in her office space, but was virtually in touch with team members based in Bengaluru. Months earlier, another female software engineer working with an IT firm in Pune was attacked until her death, only a few metres away from her office.
The issue of women’s safety does feature when companies ask employees to work late nights. They hire cab services to ferry employees home after work, but the cab drivers, not being directly hired by the companies, are not really accountable to them. How does one account for being safe in their presence?
Women tend to miss out on career opportunities because of glitches on the company’s part to ensure their safety. Women might not even bring up the safety issue, fearing they might not be picked for prestigious projects because of the additional baggage of ensuring safety for them. And if they do bring up their safety-related grievances, companies go patronisingly easy on them, asking them to opt out of challenging projects. Never mind how good they may be for their careers. This results in the systemic exclusion of women from working at high profile, challenging projects, and keeps qualified and talented women from climbing high along the corporate ladder.
The commercial areas of Pune, such as the Hinjewadi area, are indeed infamously unsafe. But this cannot be written off as a typified “unsafe because bad area”, the matter brushed off and done away with. More and more women are going out to work, and opting for better career prospects no matter where the workplace is and when its timings are, over the perceived safety of a regular nine-to-five.
So the work space isn’t safe. But then the home isn’t really safe for all women either – because, marital rape, domestic abuse, etc. don’t really count, do they? And it would be really laughable to even think of considering public spaces as remotely safe for women in India. Where then should women go? Where is this never, never land of “safe”?
Where do we go?