National

‘MeToo will not be resolved unless both men and women come forward’

Chitra Narayanan New Delhi | Updated on October 16, 2018 Published on October 16, 2018

CORETHA M RUSHING, Chief Human Resources Officer, Equifax

 

 

At the annual conference of Society of Human Resources Management last week in Delhi, where over 1,500 HR professionals from India and abroad were gathered, a lot of buzz was around #MeToo. Could HR have played a more proactive role? Coretha M Rushing, Chief Human Resources Officer of credit monitoring firm Equifax Inc, and Board Chair of SHRM-Atlanta, shared her take with BusinessLine. Excerpts:

A year after the US, MeToo is trending in India. Do you think HR — under whose responsibility this comes — has failed to address the issue in workplaces?

I have a different take on it. When you have issues in workplaces, it’s not the responsibility of just HR but also the leadership of the organisation. After all, they are the ones who hired everybody, including HR. I have also been struck by how in India there are not a lot of senior-level women in human resources. At this conference, for instance, there are many senior level men attending but not so many women.

When I look at the MeToo movement, what I think is happening in India is exactly what happened in the US. A few people came out and it led to a dam bursting. Other people realised that, hey, we are not alone, raised their hands and shared their stories. But, for a situation to be resolved, not only people who have been mistreated but all of those around them also should come forward and say we support you. The MeToo movement will not be resolved until men and women both acknowledge the problem and say they desire the same thing — Safe, open, healthy work environments.

Any injustice that happens in a workplace impacts everyone in the organisation and impacts work. Even stuff like this which has happened behind the scenes. You won’t have the best product and you won’t get the best customers because you have a population of people that cannot deliver their best work.

Many fear that MeToo will lead to negative repercussions like fewer women getting hired. Is that a real fear?

I think smart companies and smart businesses will not do that. They will not afford to ignore a significant part of the workforce. It may sound like the easiest solution is not to hire women, but it makes no business sense. Would you want to keep highly skilled people who are the right fit out of your office?

In the US, has any change happened in organisations after the MeToo stories broke out?

Many things have happened. The first thing that happened is suddenly there is a conversation. The very fact that women are coming forward is the first win. It may seem small but six months ago there was no conversation. Now it’s out in the open. And that is a victory of sorts.

The other thing happening in the US is that companies are increasing training on this issue. We are also seeing companies that have not been identified as having problems looking around and checking. Usually, people say I haven’t seen anything in my office, nobody has complained, therefore I don’t have a problem. But now, they are actually asking, maybe we have a problem too and just have not noticed.

The third thing that is happening is that young men and women are having conversations about this. Many of the youngsters have been socialised differently. For example, , they played sports together in school. When we played, men and women played separately and so on. What I am trying to say is that the benefits of this movement may be that it may not create change in the short-term but could have a positive impact later.

Some of the cases of MeToo that have come up have happened between colleagues outside the workplace. Will companies take action against the employee then?

These are grey areas. It is problematic when social action outside work is thrown up. But, in this, what you have to look for is appropriate behaviour. Many workplaces make it mandatory that if you are dating a colleague, you have to disclose it to HR. Sometimes these relationships can be great. But sometimes things could go wrong and then it can get strange at the workplace.

Published on October 16, 2018
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