Infosys Techie Murder: How Safe Are Women At Workplace

by Sohini Bagchi    Feb 06, 2017

While Indian IT companies are known for big profits, young, talented professionals and sprawling campuses, in these so called positivities there hides an ugly truth - The USD150-billion Indian IT industry has time and again failed to safeguard the safety and security of its female employees, a concern that came into focus by the alleged murder of a 25-year-old woman at an IT park in Pune last week.

Whether it’s TCS, Infosys, Wipro or MNCs building their IT campuses in the country, many of these companies have struggled to safeguard their most precious asset. According to statistics, about half of India’s 3.7 million people employed with the IT and BPO industry are women. Many work overnight shifts to match with the time zones of their foreign clients. While many companies have tightened the vetting of drivers and security guards and made new rules like setting up security patrols to monitor cabs, and not allowing female employees to travel alone, these changes have not kept pace with the workforce.

Read more: More Power to Women in Technology

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The problem continues…

Sadly, the discrimination against women at the workplace is manifested in more ways than one. This is true especially in a sector like IT where women complain that apart from security issues, they also have to contend with discrimination and ingrained sexism on a day to day basis. A Monster India report noted that the Indian IT industry is facing a severe gender gap not only in terms of number of women in the payroll but also with respect to remuneration as women employees are getting far less pay than their male counterparts. The gender pay gap in the IT industry is as high as 29 percent, suggests the findings of the Monster Salary Index (MSI).

Sanjay Modi, Managing Director, Monster.com, India/Middle East/South-East Asia believes that the marital status in India could be cited as a reason for lack of opportunities and growth avenues for a gender. “As India has a typical socio-cultural setup, women often prefer or are compelled to take up part-time jobs to fulfill primary responsibility of taking care of household activities and children.”

Also, in terms of job tenure, women are at a secondary position as they find it hard to accumulate years in office due to family obligations. Modi said that with more number of career breaks in their job history, the negotiating capacity of women in the labor market declines. Hence, men with similar experience earn higher salary as compared to women.

In a recent commentary published on McKinsey Quarterly, researchers further take a look into workplace gender equality. While finding the answer to why are women still underrepresented at every level of today’s corporations, authors Dominic Barton, Sandrine Devillard, and Judith Hazlewood mentioned, “We believe there are several reasons the gender gap so stubbornly persists. For one, in many organizations, senior leadership has only recently committed itself to addressing this challenge.”

According to Nasscom, women comprise 30% of the workforce. However, while the representation of women at the entry level may have increased, their presence is marginal at the higher levels.

Read more: Why Gender Equality Must Be A Boardroom Issue

Whether it is about women’s safety at the workplace or their representation at the board level, sensitizing men also makes a world of difference in this setup, as research shows that more aware the men in the workplace, the more likely it is that they will support gender initiatives. The researchers also recommend that creating mentoring partnerships between men and women can help explore the difficulties and challenges for both parties at work, besides regular sensitization workshops and face-to-face sessions.

What IT companies should do?

While the gender apathy remains a debatable issue, the first step towards realizing women empowerment - or the fundamental need - is securing them at the workplace involves that workplaces must be built on cultural, procedural, legal, and above all, preventive measures. In countries such as the US, UK and Australia, university and office campuses have their own police forces to protect the campus and surrounding areas and the people who live, work, and visit it. [Read the full story here]. 

In India, campuses should have a dedicated campus force to be paid for by companies. They may also have a combination of police and contract security with clearly demarketed roles and responsibilities.

Read: For Women in IT, Gender Gap Leads To Stunted Career Growth 

It has been seen that both physical security with technology will help counter some of these grave issues. Experts note, most campuses have a three-tier security structure with close circuit PTZ cameras, X-ray bag scanners, flap-barriers and swipe cards. But many of these companies still do not have a campus security patrols on foot or vehicles, quick reaction teams to work closely with the local police or a campus-wide notification system for all staff, a whistle alert scheme or an anti-rape programme for employees and support staff.

The recent case of the techie found dead at the Infosys’ facility in Pune must now be a rude reminder that it is not about the gift-wrapped offices and profits that matter more, unless the people who work in them feel safe.