In Conversation: Shreya Ukil, the Woman Who Fought Sexist Wipro

Shreya Ukil talks about gender discrimination at Wipro and her eventual victory in the lawsuit against the tech firm.

Updated
Women
4 min read
Shreya Ukil. (Photo: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/ukil007">Facebook/ShreyaUkil</a>)

Shreya Ukil is a London-based Indian woman who worked for Wipro as Sales and Market Development Manager for the company’s back office operations in London.

In 2015, Ukil approached the Employment Tribunal, and filed a suit of 1.2 million pounds against Wipro where she claimed to have faced gender discrimination. She added that her objection against the sexism and misogyny she experienced at the tech-firm had led to her dismissal.

On 4 May, the UK Tribunal passed an official verdict in which it dismissed Ukil’s allegation of “wrongful dismissal” against her erstwhile employer, but maintained that she was indeed a “victim of discrimination”.

Shreya Ukil speaks to The Quint about the entire process of filing the lawsuit and her eventual victory against Wipro.

On Winning the Tribunal Complaint Against Wipro

I feel vindicated and hopeful that the law can make change possible in every country. You must already be aware that in the UK and US there are very strong equal pay and sex discrimination laws.

Barak Obama and David Cameron are both focused on eradicating the gender pay gap and getting large corporates to mandatorily disclose salary gaps between men and women. I’m sure India will not be far behind.

The victimisation and discrimination that I experienced over the years has been stressful for me, but as you can see it has not held me back. The support I have received from women and men has been incredible and I hope my case will inspire women to stand up for themselves.

No organisation or person is too big to get away with unethical and illegal behaviour. It was a fight for respect and equality and as hard as it has been, if I had to fight it again, I would, with all my heart.

On Taking the Case to the Tribunal

To go to Tribunal was not easy. My battle started back in 2012 when I discovered I was being paid 50% less than my male colleagues. All the issues I raised subsequently to my manager, HR and the company Ombuds committee, including those of sex discrimination and victimisation, were rejected.

What I learnt from the evidence presented at Tribunal was that far from intending to help me, the senior management conspired to block any chance of my moving into another role, with the intention of forcing me back to India and silencing me. The tribunal also found that Wipro’s act of rejecting my resignation on September 2014 was an act of victimisation.

I was a proud Wipro employee and had tremendous faith in the company. I followed the due process of complaints. They were never addressed.

When I finally approached Mr Azim Premji, he assured me that there would be a fair and impartial investigation and that “I should have no fear of any retribution”.

When that did not happen, and on the contrary I was then asked instead to attend a disciplinary hearing whilst on sick leave, I resigned because it left me too distraught. Instead of accepting my resignation, I was fired four days later in September 2015.

This was not an appropriate way to treat a senior member of the team. I had brought in multi million dollar contracts as the Head of Sales for Europe and my achievements had been acknowledged with performance awards multiple times.

I approached the Tribunal because I decided not to walk away from what was legally my right. However, what devastated me the most was discovering the extent of the victimisation that went on behind my back by the very people I sought help from. During cross examination on the stand, I was forced to relive every act of discrimination time and time again. It was tough, but it needed to be done.

“What devastated me the most was discovering the extent of the victimisation that went on behind my back.” (Photo: Shreya Ukil)
“What devastated me the most was discovering the extent of the victimisation that went on behind my back.” (Photo: Shreya Ukil)

On What Bothered Her the Most

Of the many disappointing aspects of my experience at Wipro is the realisation that diversity and ethical policies mean nothing if the culture of discrimination remains.

The grievances, in particular with regard to sexist attitudes that I raised with Wipro’s Global Head of Diversity, were heavily criticised by the judges, who stated “ [The Head] found the complaint unfounded despite compelling evidence to the contrary” and that “this amounted to detrimental treatment because the claimant [Ms. Ukil] had made the allegation”.

It bothered me that whilst my colleagues failed to treat me with respect or dignity, calling me a ‘bitch’ was appalling. Worse, the management found no fault in this sexist behaviour, despite, as the Tribunal says, ‘compelling evidence’.

On Wipro’s Response to the Tribunal Decision

As I understand, no one has seen a formal press release from Wipro. Why is that? If its indeed a win for Wipro and they truly believe they have won, one would have expected to see a press release to that effect. Their silence, however, is not surprising to anyone who has read the equal pay and sex discrimination judgements.

(Preeti Singh is a journalist currently based in New York. Her features appear in Indian and US publications.)

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