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And on the flip side… Poison Ivy in the Office? – A guest blog post by Sonia Jaspal, with insights to feminism in modern India and its implications for men

Could it be that women in their attempt to gain gender equality have resorted to power plays and manipulation in the same manner as historically deployed by men?  Being a woman, it concerns me that the social injustices that women were fighting against may now be levied against their male colleagues in the corporate world. Some women, it seems, are showing that they are equally capable of abusing power and compromising moral ethics for ambition. An analysis of the results of sexual harassment and office romance surveys indicate these shortcomings in female behavior in office setting.

A sexual harassment survey was conducted by Economic Times- Synovate, in August 2010 in seven metropolitan cities of India. The results revealed that “one in five Indians has been sexually harassed verbally or physically and half of the respondents said that they have been sexually harassed by their female colleagues”. The other startling fact which came to light was that “38% of the respondents believe that men are as vulnerable to sexual harassment as women”.

An office affairs survey was conducted by TeamLease Services- Synovate in December 2007 in India. The results indicated that 59% of working executives feel women are equal partners in office romances and even they initiate affairs a number of times. The second aspect mentioned is that 44% executives attribute ‘ambition-to-move-up-the-corporate-ladder’ as the reason for sexual relationships. Lastly, one third of the working executives from the corporate sector see no harm in romancing married colleagues.

The two surveys indicate the image of Indian women as conservative, principled and demure may be a thing of the past.  I hear men complaining about women. They mumble their complaints and say that even their rights to complain against women have been taken away by the feminist movement, as it is considered politically incorrect. Any man saying something against the female gender is considered chauvinistic, jerk, etc. etc.

Modern men increasingly have two images to maintain. First is the traditional image of the strong masculine guy who can take on anything without being emotionally impacted. The second is the recent image of a metro-sexual guy who is broadminded and in favor of gender equality. Somewhere in between the two it seems that men are losing out big time without being able to voice their concerns. A study paper published by Jarrod Reich shows men are unable to complain publically because:

  1. It is against the masculine image to say that they have been forced into unwanted sex. Men are socially supposed to be interested in sex all the time, so they are considered less of a man if they complain about it.
  2. A man is physically stronger than a woman, hence the concept that a man can be forced into sex or raped is not considered believable. The gender stereotype is that only men can rape or force sex on women.
  3. Sexual violence by women, for example, manipulation tactics, forcing the issue, stalking a man is considered as the women is romantically involved with the man. However, the same behavior from man is considered a criminal offence.

Both genders are equally capable of abusing the other. The shame, humiliation, anxiety, depression and loss of trust are felt by both genders equally. Undermining the issue, or ignoring the issue does not benefit the society. In times to come, harassment by women might be making headlines. And, that will really be a sad state of affairs.

As per Economic Times survey, 40.3% of new entrants to the workforce in India are women, and yet women hold only 6.2% of board positions in India. Women have a long way to go to obtain equal representation in the workforce at all levels however women as well as men also need to show integrity and moral ethics to achieve their ambition.

About the Author | Sonia Jaspal is an exert in risk management and corporate governance and is a blogger at www.soniajaspal.wordpress.com

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