India Inc promotes active listening to avoid subtle putdowns that women face.
When Nandita Shah (name changed), a manager at an MNC, pointed out to her immediate superior that her views were brushed aside in internal ideation meetings, or she was subjected to subtle putdowns, she was asked to `calm down’. US-based Vox Media was the first company to have outlined in its code of conduct unwanted behaviour such as mansplaining (where a women is interrupted while speaking even if she has subject expertise), micro-aggressions or subtle putdowns, and even tone policing (telling a person to calm down instead of responding to their concerns).
Rolled out late last year, its code of conduct in the context of mansplaining says: “Remember that your colleagues may have expertise you are unaware of and listen at least as much as you speak.”
Various studies, including that by Brigham Young University and Princeton researchers in 2012, show that men dominated professional meetings, giving women a voice share of only 25%. Behaviours such as mansplaining and micro-aggression, whether intentional or not, result in a climate of exclusion and a reduced contributory role by women in decision making, thus mitigating the benefits of gender diversity at the workplace.
While India Inc has recognized the value of gender diversity, as in most companies across the world, Indian companies appear to have not defi ned and specifically banned mansplaining via a policy document. However, through other means such as defining inclusiveness as a corporate value, encouraging active listening and via sensitization programmes, a few companies are ensuring that their women employees are equally heard.
By doing simple things, we subtly encourage the right behaviour. For example, we do not close any ` All Minds meetings’ (our open house meetings), unless there are a few questions from the lady minds,” says Parthasarathy NS, executive director & COO at Mindtree. The Mahindra Group has guidelines for conducting meetings -the moderator has to encourage participation by all members, who can give their viewpoint without any interruption.
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