Highlighting gender inequity at work

ANISHA MOTWANI | Updated on March 10, 2018 Published on December 17, 2015

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The Myntra ad reflects how pregnant women are often treated at the workplace

In more ways than one, the new Myntra ad hits the nail on the head. It is about time that the hypocrisy in the name of gender equality in the corporate world comes to light. While speaking about this commercial in particular, there are some nuances and smaller aspects that I would like to get out of the way first. Not to say that these are not important. On the contrary! It is these details that are instrumental in making a ‘good’ commercial ‘great’.

I will then dwell on the larger “societal” issue of ‘pregnancy discrimination’ in corporate and highlight the gap between promise and practice on such issues.

First of all, kudos to the casting director for a perfect cast for the film. Shernaz Patel as the ‘gentle’ boss delivering a ‘not so gentle’ message in a matter-of-fact tone is simply superb. Her kind and even apologetic tone is simply superb.

Radhika Apte’s response to her boss is even better. Her sharp retorts and confidence in putting across facts is admirable. Her responses and presentation of facts manage to highlight the issue of gender bias brilliantly. Dialogues like ‘I'm handicapped because I am pregnant’ and the context setting through ‘lovely jacket, it almost hides your bump’ make the script so powerful.

The conversation in the car instead of an office space is another interesting aspect of the commercial. It highlights the effort that organisations put into communicating sensitive issues innocuously. The need to sugar-coat words and soften the blow is evident and comes out well.

Lastly, full marks to the tight script, direction and acting that do not reveal an iota of what is awaiting the viewer at the end of the film. The end is well depicted as it does not reduce the conversation that the protagonist has with her superior to a mere rant. It shows that a logical solution is possible and gives hope to those in a similar situation.

Now, let me come to the mainstay of gender bias in the film, where a pregnant woman is discriminated against. While a large section of corporate India is working diligently towards solving issues of gender bias and putting in significant efforts towards creating gender-sensitive policies such as flexi-hours, work from home and such, there are still several organisations where women are victimised silently by way of preferential treatment to male colleagues. It is a painful fact that till date in many organisations, pregnancy and motherhood are equated to being not committed enough and results in biased evaluation of sincere efforts that the employee may have put in for a number of years.

Insensitivity shown towards such women becomes apparent when the lady is just about to go on maternity leave or after she is back. In the performance evaluation of such women, the period of maternity is considered as a period of zero work output which in effect means poor or average work performance.

But the truth is that in most cases women give their 100 per cent and work till the very end of their pregnancy term. This despite the obvious discomfort that pregnancy brings and even after the baby is born, career-oriented women return to work despite facing several challenges of daily care for their child. In fact, the practical need to conserve all leave till after the baby is born makes women put in extra effort to complete as much as work as possible in the crunched period of time. Most conscientious women in pregnancy are very aware and conscious of the upcoming maternity leave and wherever possible advance tasks to not inconvenience the organisation.

This attitude of some corporates is downright hypocritical and unjustifiable. The Myntra commercial thus bears testimony to the fact that despite the growing dialogue about gender equality, it is still a far cry from being put into practice even in the elitist corporate set-up and will, therefore, resonate with quite a few working women.

Prejudice abounds

Myntra’s ad for Anouk takes on the cause of pregnant women and the discrimination they face at work. Shaheen, the pregnant architect, and her boss, are sharing a ride home. Shaheen takes exception to the boss’s comment that her clothes hide her pregnancy rather well and raises the issue of unfairness she is facing at the work place on its account – her male colleague is getting a promotion and being assigned all her clients. Consequently, she is starting out on her own, she announces, leaving the boss aghast.

The author is Marketing & Digital Strategist, Max Group of companies

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Published on December 17, 2015
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