After completing her education in computer science from IIT-Mumbai, Pune-based Priti Rao worked in the IT industry for 24 years, of which she spent 12 years at the Infosys, till she resigned in 2009. At Infosys, Rao handled dual responsibilities of a Senior Vice-President and Location Head of Global Infrastructure Management Business, Pune. Recalling her time with the IT sector, Rao shared her views on how the scenario has changed and why there is a need for more efforts and 24X7 monitoring:
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How have things changed for working women in the IT industry?
When I started, there were very few women. So, challenges such as safety were relatively smaller, until say 2002-03. Most of the services were related to software development and maintenance, which didn’t need extended hours or regular nightshifts. Now, working in different shifts has almost become a norm.
Was safety and security of women staff as big a concern then, as it is today?
Yes, it has always been a big concern. Only size of the challenge has increased, manifold. Hence, the need for 24X7 monitoring.
During your tenure, did you ever come across any unfortunate incident, where a woman was attacked on the company premises due to security lapse?
Nothing as bad as the current incident happened, but minor issues were reported once in a while. A few incidents were reported from Bengaluru, where women were assaulted in nightshift cabs.
What are the safety measures taken by IT firms to ensure security for women?
It has been almost eight years since I quit Infosys, so I may not have all the information but, obviously, things such as checking the safety of cabs, ensuring that women do not get the last drop, providing safety apps on mobile, tracking all drops, scanning drivers, having sufficient women guards, good lighting on the campus. Besides, I think hiring women drivers would also help, but given their unavailability, it is going to take some time.
What’s your opinion on women working in nightshifts and the risks involved?
There are certain jobs, which require nightshifts, so one can’t avoid that. But probability of attacks and abuse during these hours is highly likely. Also, one tends to be tired during and after nightshifts, so alertness and ability to fight back also reduces significantly.
How can companies ensure that such incidents are not repeated?
Although many systems are already in place, but a few measures can be taken:
– Panic button-type wearable device or a chip in the ID card can help raise an alarm
– Existing safety measures should be regularly executed, monitored, audited, in the same rigour like fire drills.
– A chief safety officer and a team member at each location can help ensure the safety of all employees, including women
– Providing self-defence training or mandating such certifications for women staff can also help
– Providing chilly or pepper sprays to staff
– Counselling on how one must report such concerns to higher authorities at an early stage, rather than trying to solve it on their own
– Housekeeping, guards, drivers etc must also be told the dos and don’ts, at least quarterly
– In general, one must create an environment where employees can confide in their team leaders, without the fear of being penalised.