Often after her sessions against sexual harassment in offices, a pushback Smita C Kapoor receives from some employers is that they will stop hiring women. “It is the most irritating pushback I receive from men. I explain that women form almost 50 per cent of the population and there is no such place for discrimination against them. They add value and growth to the economy that is not replaceable,” she says. Kapoor, who earlier worked as an HR professional in a multinational company till 2013, began her own company, KelpHR, in the same year when The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, was enacted. “Many companies would hire a third party to write their anti-sexual harassment policies and NGOs to conduct sessions with their employees. The approach was scattered so I wanted to start something which would assist companies on this aspect,” Kapoor says.
“Initially, we hired people to conduct sessions in offices but on attending a few of those, I realised that it was not connecting with the employees. The subject is heavy and one needs to make it simpler,” Kapoor says. She then began taking sessions on her own, developing storytelling techniques and easy methods to make people understand the dos and dont’s at the workplace.
“For most of us in the workplace now, when we went to school we were not even taught what a good touch and bad touch is. Sexual harassment entails so much more, it can be verbal, physical, quid pro quo. I use stories and anecdotes to make employees realise what constitues as sexual harassment,” Kapoor says. One example she usually uses is that of IAS officer Rupan Deol Bajaj, on whose complaint, IPS officer KPS Gill was convicted for sexual harassment by the Supreme Court in 2005. “Women in the country are usually told to ignore or are told to live with it, when faced with sexual harassment. Through the sessions, we also ask the employees to write anonymous chits with issues they are facing so that the internal committee can look into it if anything alarming is mentioned,” Kapoor says.
For instance, Kapoor says, she tells women that if a co-employee asks them out for a movie, if they are not interested, they should just say so instead of making vague reasons. “One question I often get after our session is men asking whether they should wear blinders or if compliments cannot be given at all. We tell them that they should be sensitive. Asking someone out or complimenting them is not wrong but it should be done without making the person uncomfortable,” she says.