New Delhi: Women in the corporate sector may be working online from the ‘safe’ environs of home during the pandemic, but nothing seems to have made an iota of difference to sexism, even in a virtual workplace during the COVID-19-induced lockdown.
According to a survey done in the United Kingdom, one in three women said corporate bosses had been “requesting” them to dress “sexier” and “wear make-up” or do up their hair for video calls for reasons such as it “help to win new business" or that it was important to "look nicer for the team". business,” says a report in Huffington Post, UK.
The survey, done by Slater and Gordon, an employment law firm, which reached out to about 2,000 women in the corporate sector, sowed that 35% of them said they had experienced at least one “sexist request” from their bosses. However, 60% women said they paid no heed to such ‘requests.”
"It was hoped that HR [human resources] departments would see a dramatic decline in reports of sexist behaviour as offices closed down across the country," SkyNews quoted the report as saying. Instead, "sexism has instead found new and insidious ways to thrive online", it added.
Around two out of five women or nearly 40% in the survey said such demands shrouded as ‘request” were never targeted equally at male employees, making them feel “objectified, demoralised and self-conscious” about their appearance.
Media reports cited Slater and Gordon employment lawyer Danielle Parsons as saying that: "It is categorically wrong for a manager or anyone in a position of power to suggest, even politely, for a woman to be more sexually appealing in the workplace,” adding that “this is a powerful form of coercion which makes women feel as if they must adhere to the manager's request and be more visually pleasing to be successful at their job. This is demeaning to women.”
The report said that such unwanted requests by bosses were discriminatory and unlawful, as they created a “humiliating or degrading environment for women."
Trade unions, too, termed this as sexism and harassment even when women were working from home during the pandemic, sometimes sharing the dual burden of family and work, saying there need to be better laws.
“The way women are treated in our society is absolutely reflected in the findings of this poll,” Sue Harris, legal director of the GMB union, told Huffington Post, UK, adding that “Nobody ever considers what a man looks like or suggests he change appearance for the purposes of a team call.”
Trade Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Sexism and harassment at work has a huge impact on women’s lives, even during a pandemic. Trade union reps can help members who experience it, but we need better laws to stop it happening in the first place.”