Gone are the days when sexism in the workplace was normalised, leading to a huge wage disparity along with all sorts of discrimination against women. Bangladesh is currently the country with the lowest gender pay gap among the lower middle income countries, according to ILO Global Wage Report 2018. But women, even till this day, are subject to a lot of sexist practices in their workplaces, which stem from the patriarchal thoughts and views that have been deeply rooted in our society for many years.
While many people find it unnecessary to address casual sexism in their organisations and workplaces, allowing such practices have serious repercussions. These practices can lead to injustice and discrimination against capable women working in the organisation. Many women working at reputed banks and financial organisations of the country have reported to be victims of sexism in their workplaces. They say that they have been casually and brutally shamed for their clothes, marital status and other things, but have shied away from complaining to the authority because they feared that the harassment would get worse. These have had serious upshots on their working environment and mental wellbeing.
This is what results from years of not protesting; in such organisations, women are reportedly not promoted after a certain level, although their male counterparts ease their way through promotions. Women are also deprived of adequate training facilities because of the archaic belief that providing training for women will not be beneficial to the company as these women are perceived to be inept at delivering results in these organisations. Not addressing sexism in the workplaces has deteriorated the situation for years with women still being deprived, maybe not so much in terms of wage, but in terms of proper recognition and development of their capabilities and other benefits such as equitable maternity leave, etc. In extreme cases, these can lead to incidents of sexual harassment as well, as it is way too easy to shift the blame on the victim due to the already existing sexist thoughts and views.
Company policies and the authority’s goodwill to carry them out properly can lead to the eradication of a sexist working environment to a great extent. Neruz Afreen, who is currently working at BRAC as a programme co-ordinator, discussed some of the safeguarding policies taken by BRAC in order to ensure a sexism-free and woman-friendly working environment. “In every department, there is a safeguarding focal team that addresses the issues related to sexism, no matter how ‘trivial’ it is. Every floor has a feedback box, where anonymous complaints of sexist remarks and any form of sexual harassment can be submitted; these complaints are evaluated on a weekly basis. If the accused is found to be guilty after a thorough investigation, that person is surely to be sacked in a day’s notice, even if it is the director,” she said. She also mentioned that BRAC has been carrying out special programmes to enhance the capabilities of women employees, one of which is the women leadership programme. Under this programme, every six months, three women from each department are selected for a special capacity development training. The company has truly set an example when it comes to ensuring a better working environment for women.
The authorities might not be as supportive in many companies. Many organisations take such issues lightly as they do not understand the gravity of the problem. It is important to collectively take a strong stance against such practices in these companies. The authorities need to be pressurised into taking these issues seriously, as these practices will eventually lead to undermining a woman employee’s self-worth and capabilities, consequently hindering the progress of her career. This has to stop. Casual sexist remarks, no matter how trivially perceived, should not be neglected. It should not go unreported, and if the authority seems unwilling to do anything to change the situation, collective pressure has to be created. Support from colleagues under such circumstances is crucial for the wellbeing of a victim of sexist subjugation. Every person in the workplace has to take up a zero tolerance policy from their own accord in this fight against sexism.
Nahaly Nafisa Khan is an Economics major currently studying in DU. She procrastinates a lot, yet is obsessed with meeting deadlines. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.