#MeToo in Corporate India: Just the Tip of the Iceberg
After MeToo in Bollywood, media and the ‘woke’ comedy space, skeletons start emerging from the corporate closet.
With accusations against ‘sexual predators’ creeping out of the woodwork on a near daily basis, Twitter has become the arena of choice to name and shame perpetrators. No longer contained by conventions of politeness, protocol or paranoia over it backfiring, survivors are now calling the shots.
Banding together and helping each other rise above, the struggles online against ‘bro culture’, casual sexism, downright date rape and various other forms of abuse are now coming to the forefront, terrifying and eye-opening in equal measure.
However, the silence from a certain sector has been particularly deafening – the corporate space. From large multinational organisations to small-scale start-ups, the white collar sector represents a sizeable chunk of the population that lives in urban India, and that has been consuming with rising curiosity, the fall-out of the Me Too movement in the country.
Misogyny on Display but Corporate Employees MIA
From the sets and green rooms of Bollywood to newsrooms of major channels, newspapers and media outlets, the global #MeToo movement has well and truly arrived in India. Restricted to social media posts offering solidarity last October, there has been an explosion of survivor testimonies and a spate of tweets across social media in the last few days, opening a Pandora’s Box of information about the misogyny of men in everyday life.
Starting with actor Tanushree Dutta’s testimony of being allegedly assaulted by Nana Patekar several years ago, women across the spectrum have been calling out their harassers in fields like stand-up comedy, academia, journalism, politics and some in between. Users took to Twitter to encourage women working corporate jobs to summon the strength to speak out and sully long-held reputations.
Not the Most Twitter-Happy Industry
Fears of professional penalties like delayed promotions, denied opportunities and a sudden halt to an otherwise upward career trajectory make it a fairly insular space.
Apart from posting about positive PR developments, the corporate sector is not the most Twitter-friendly field to survive in. Censure for speaking out, exclusion from ‘boys clubs’ and other exacerbating factors are enough to demotivate anybody willing to speak out.
Naming, but no Shaming in Internal Processes
With mechanisms to deal with sexual assault varying from one organisation to the next, there have been few or wildly varying reports of ‘resolutions’ at these organisations. Constitution of Internal Complaint Committees, workshops educating employees of the rights available to them under the Vishakha guidelines may happen before or after the fact.
Silently orchestrated resignations, informal settlements and in many cases, the complainant quitting the company are commonplace. Poor HR practices, inadequate mechanisms to deal with issues of this nature and most commonly, the absence of affirmative action are the most common plaints, repeated in social circles but largely missing from a larger, national narrative.
Here’s What We Know So Far
While the Me Too movement has been so successful partly due to the stature of the perpetrators it has managed to humble, it is also because of who have been calling people out.
Even if prominent participants in the corporate work culture are not speaking out now, there are people at the lower levels of the hierarchy who are willing to call out predators. Here are some instances of abuse within corporate set-ups
The ‘Rape Culture’ at 22Feet Tribal Worldwide
Following an anonymous blog by an ex-employee of the ad firm, several former employees have come out on Twitter to confirm the sexist culture at the company, as well as to vouch for the authenticity of the voice in the blog.
Raj Kurup, of Creativeland Asia
Multiple women have spoken out against alleged ‘serial harasser’ Raj Kurup, founder of Creativeland Asia, brand communications, advertising and design firm with tales of forcibly being made to watch porn, questioning employees about their sexual fantasies or asking questions like “Wouldn’t it be crazy if you kissed me right now?”
Although Raj Kurup did not respond to allegations on Twitter, this happened:
Aditya Pawan, Red Bull India
From his days at MICA to his career at Red Bull, women have called out Aditya Pawan for forcing himself on unwilling women to propagating a ‘rape culture’ at Red Bull.
Dinesh Swamy, iProspect
One testimony has also come out against Dinesh Swamy, senior creative director at iProspect, a digital performance marketing agency. From joking about masturbating in the office loo to tickling women, he has been called out for his misdemeanours.
The 52-year-old angel investor was first called out for molesting, stalking and sending sexually explicit text messages to a Delhi-based woman entrepreneur who complained about him to the National Commission for Women (NCW) in 2017. In December 2017, Murthy was booked under multiple sections of the IPC and the IT Act and arrested by the Mumbai police.
There have been more allegations more recently, which Murthy still denies.
Time is Indeed Up and the Corporate Sector is the Space to Watch
It always starts with a trickle, and swells to a tide.
From the sector that gave birth to the idea of a ‘glass ceiling’, it is only a matter of time before corporate honchos will have to hide behind something other than their reputations and corner offices, to evade the tide of retribution.
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