My Experience of Women’s Day in a Corporate World

 

Photo courtesy : Marinela Prodan. www.freeimages.com
Photo courtesy : Marinela Prodan. www.freeimages.com

 

A few days ago an avid follower of my blog, scrolled down to the first ever blogpost I had written way back in 2011. I have not been energetic like my fellow bloggers when it comes to writing blogposts. In the last eight years or so I have managed to come up with hardly 50 odd posts, which is a pathetic display of laziness in the present day scenario (No pun intended). Thus it was rather easy for the follower to scroll down to my first blogpost ever.  Compared to the novel sized posts I am known for, this was not of my ‘standard’. It was just a three-line affair, but there was an important line in it. It said, “My blog will consist of my travel stories, my photographs, and my publications and last but not the least- interesting moments from my daily life.” Based on this line I was asked a blatant question – how many posts I have written about ‘interesting moments from my daily life’? When I pondered back, I realized I have missed out this point. So I took up my dusty keyboard, cleared my messed up desk and finally decided to type about that “one moment in time”. 22 years of my life has been exhausted by the corporate world. In this post, I look back to one infamous incident which happened during this tenure. It happened on 8th March – The Women’s Day.

At that time, having an intranet was in fashion for almost all corporate. Intranet as many may be aware is a private network accessible only to an organization’s staff. It acts as a focal point for internal communication and collaboration. Other than its major benefits, it provided immediate updates of various events of the organization. Our intranet had a feature named ‘show window’ on the home page of the intranet which was nothing but a horizontal image of the dimension of 1024 x 600 pixels. It was positioned on the top of the home page. The first thing which drew attention to the audience was this section as soon as they accessed the intranet. In an era devoid of social media, getting your photo featured on the show window was a matter of pride. As I was employed in the Corporate Communication division and my primary skill was graphics designing, my job was to update this section at a regular interval. Photographs of office picnics, awards, workshops, and other events regularly featured here. I was pursued by almost everyone in the organization to get their photographs posted in this section.

My immediate superior was always full of ideas regarding regularly updating the show window. On the early morning of women’s day, I was instructed by my superior to have notable women’s photographs from our organization featured here.  As long as the women directors and managing directors’ photographs were to be featured here, I had no issues. Though the organization had several group companies, women holding high ranks were very less in number and featuring them would not raise any question like “Why my photo was not featured?” from any middle management staff.

However, my superior had some more ideas. “ Amitabha, put up photograph of one woman from middle management of each group company” – was the instruction I received.

Sensing trouble I said “But, which woman from which group company? There are so many women employees in each of them.”

My boss chuckled and said “That, I leave to your judgment. I trust you will select very well.”

I did not like the tone of the voice of my superior. I understood  that if any trouble comes up I will have to face the music. However, that is how things operate in a corporate, especially in India.

I immediately arranged for the photographs of the organization’s directors and managing directors. Then I set to select one women employee from each of the group company. It was not an easy task. I had space to put up a maximum of 10 thumbnails of these women employees. Five was already reserved for the top-notch employees. Anyways, on a performance basis, I selected five more from group companies. Then I forwarded these photographs with all the details to the junior designer and asked him to design the show window with the caption of women achievers of the organization.

The show window was ready by 11:00 am. As soon as it was live, within minutes the phone line of the Corporate Communications department went busy. My junior designer and other members of the team went panic-stricken as women employees from all group companies demanded on what basis the featured women were selected. We tried to reason, but the situation was getting out of control. In the end, I had to shout at a human resource guy, who was pestering my head for uploading the photo of his favorite women colleague.

I rang my superior and explained the situation. Now my superior panicked too and came up with a bizarre solution. This time the idea was to convert the show window from plain *.jpg image to flash animation slideshow and feature all women in middle management from all group companies. This was not a technically full proof solution as not every computer of the organization had a flash plugin installed in them. So this meant first creating an animation with over 50 middle management women employees and then installing the flash plugins in all the PCs. This would be a nightmare and would be practically impossible to be complete within the day.

I was at a loss at what to do to solve the crisis as repeated phone calls came from my superior who went on shouting “Amitabha, do what I say. Start getting everyone’s photograph. Coordinate with IT department. Do it now!!!”. Then one of my women colleagues came with an idea. She said, “Put up photographs of some junior women employee from any particular section who are large in number and who are not bothered whether their photos are up in the show window or not.” However, this was easier said than done. Where do I get such a group of employees who are not interested in one day’s fame? Then an idea struck me.

The organization had a large number of tea estates. I had visited them on several occasion and clicked numerous photos of the women tea pluckers for using them in the internal magazine, website, and advertisement. Immediately I scanned through these photographs and selected ten such women and asked my junior to use them to replace the now featured photographs. My junior was hesitant and asked whether I should ask the boss first.

Women tea pluckers in a tea estate. Photo courtesy : Sugato Mukherjee
Women tea pluckers in a tea estate. Photo courtesy: Sugato Mukherjee (Image is for representational use only and does not feature any women tea plucker mentioned in this blog post.)

Now, this was a situation when I know that we have to work fast and end the crisis. Escalating the problem to a higher level could mean more trouble. So we took the decision on our own and changed the show window replacing the photographs.  We changed the caption too. After so many years, I do not remember the exact caption, but it was something like ‘remembering the unseen women of the organization’.  It was a true fact. Only a few handful employees of the corporate office have actually come face to face with these women tea pluckers. For the first time and probably the last time, photographs of some women featured our show window who were so busy with their daily struggle that such things did not affect them anyway. Though this was a crisis management policy, I felt good to feature their photos in the show window.

The Show window was an instant hit. The phone calls stopped. In fact, the Human Resources director lauded the idea and said this was a great way to acknowledge the efforts of these women tea pluckers. When I rang my superior and informed about the status, there was a silence on the other side.

“Well,” I said, “Say Something.”

“Is everyone happy about this ?” My superior asked.

“I don’t really care. But I can tell you one thing. Nobody will ask to remove this show window or complain about it. The first person to do it will be considered to be depriving the underprivileged to get their due.”

My superior did not even say thank you or well done. I could hear a sigh of relief on the other side and the phone was disconnected.

The women tea pluckers saved my women’s day that year.

4 comments

  1. I came across your blog while searching with ‘Gangani’ (I wished to verify some facts before including them in my blog post on my recent travel to Jhargram, Ajodhya Pahar and a brief halt at Gangani ). Your post on Women’ Day is interesting and insightful.

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