Scene I: A girl enters the office, looks around, all males and her one female colleague is on leave. With her head down, she reaches her desk and then all she does is work. No getting up, no looking around.
Scene II: A girl walks into the office, greets her colleagues, gets busy with work, enjoys breaks with her colleagues and logs out at the end of the day.
These scenes are not just imaginary or alternate realities, but in fact, real-life workplace scenarios for different people. And this is what Sairee Chahal of Sheroes has taken up the onus to address – bringing gender diversity to address sexism in the workplace and much more.
Sheroes is a community for women, where members discuss health, careers, relationships, and share their life stories, achievements and moments.
In a candid Facebook Live AMA with Inc42, Sairee Chahal explained how can an organisation or an individual identify and address sexism in the workplace.
To begin with, Sairee Chahal believes that what constitutes sexism is something not a lot of people are aware of.
As workplaces get more diverse, different kind of people come in the workplace – it’s a critical issue.
“To me, calling out sexism is one way of addressing it. If you notice something, then it means it needs to be recognised and addressed and not brushed under the carpet. From a company perspective, getting people sensitised to gender diversity, to diverse people in the workplace, to making space for everyone is really critical,” she added.
As an organisation, Sheroes also offers an independent reporting and grievance helpline for companies to manage issues of workplace sexism and harassment. This is because Sairee believes, a lot of people are not sure – men and women alike – as a lot of workplaces are still grappling with becoming diverse or getting more women in the workplace or breaking the bro culture.
“I think these are very early days but workplaces in India are becoming diverse and inclusive and fair- but everyone just needs to own it a little bit,” she adds.
Talking about workplace diversity since the time Sheroes began its journey five years ago, Sairee Chahal shares that when they started, they would sit outside large company offices waiting for meetings.
“We would get the most junior intern to meet us – that was the level of significance of the agenda in the hierarchy. They would not have any budgets or clarity but as we have grown we have seen that this conversation is now owned by CXOs, boardrooms – the stakeholder ownership has changed. And that’s one big shift I have seen,” Sairee explains.
Another thing that has changed according to Sairee Chahal is that workplace flexibility has changed. She emphasises that in the beginning people would question them – what do you mean by work from home or working remote?
Sairee Chahal claims that even today, a large percentage of people think work from home means doing scammy data entry jobs, cheap work which no one feels proud of.
“But today one of our fastest growing business lines, our biggest ask is remote work. And we feel proud of the fact that it is a big shift,” Sairee Chahal adds.