Role Reversal

I wish all of you a very happy new year! May 2020 present us with multiple opportunities to touch and transform people’s lives.

Before I begin let me capture the last two articles in a line each. 

  1. Gender Neutrality is as much about men as it is about women
  2. Society and workplace mirror each other , hence we need to look beyond the office space to bring in reak transformation

If we were to envision a role reversal where workplaces start nudging the society to shift the mind-set, how would it look? I personally think Ikea has managed to do that and a handful have followed suit.

Ikea offers the option of either parent availing of the maternity/paternity leave (both men and women will be able to avail a six months leave on a child‘s birth, including an adopted or surrogate child). To this I have had male friends wondering, how a man on such a long leave will have nothing to do after a while. Clearly, they have no idea of what sharing responsibility at home looks like in the context of raising a child. I think what Ikea did screams of neutrality.

What signals does this policy send to the society at large? 

  1. Of course the actual delivery and breast feeding cannot be handled by the father but sharing the load for rest of the things is a definite possibility. Any parent would know that a universe of chores falls under “rest of the things” when we are talk about a new born baby at home. This policy puts the fact that “nurture” is not a gender restricted role in black and white. 
  2. There are many people (men & women) who are unsure of hiring married girls assuming that 6-7 months leave will be around the corner. Neutralising this probability for both genders definitely restricts the hiring decision to role fitment and merit. 

Will our society keep up with the progressive efforts of workplaces? This is yet to be seen but I think there is hope. What is society, if not an amalgamation of all our thoughts and actions? And thoughts are definitely changing. 

Policies have been far more evolved for a longer time period when it comes to safety of women. Very few of them are patronising, most of them intend to counter the issues of society at large. Travel and stay eligibility in a lot of companies are differentiated so that the safety of female employees is not compromised at any level of hierarchy. So while society goes from bad to worse, workplace strives to diminish the divide with neutral line of thinking in this arena.

I was equally amused and shocked, when during one of my exit interviews a senior HR colleague asked me, whether the value that women bring to the table is worth all the troubles associated with recruiting and retaining them? I always say and insist that “Gender biases are gender un-biased” This was a fellow woman colleague. She could actually frame a question like that because she was chasing equality in her mind. An evolved neutral context would instead say, irrespective of the gender or any other variable, if there is a fit on the basis of merit – hire. Once hired irrespective of the gender, make the environment conducive enough for the employees to thrive and deliver their best

According to a study conducted by the Peterson Institute for International Economics in 2016 , going from having no women in corporate leadership to a 30 per cent female share is associated with a one-percentage-point increase in net margin—which translates to a fifteen per cent increase in profitability for a typical firm. This 15 per cent will not come easy. It will demand its share of planning and efforts.

What I wrote about Ikea today is a true manifestation of reputation. I have never worked with them and even at the cost of being judged, I am yet to visit their store. Yet I am pivoting almost my entire article on one thoughtful policy that they have rolled out to challenge the way our society thinks and the same is also discussed in my book “We-Men@Work” at length.

Initiating a change is always difficult, especially if it means to walk against the wave. Someone once rhetorically asked me “What can one single employee do?” in context of work culture. The fact is that a single employee with persistence can actually initiate a culture shift. At the end of the day everyone aspires for a better work environment that propels productivity. 

So where do we start and what do we do? Will be back with some thoughts on that in my last article of this series, meanwhile drop in to LinkedIn and join this group to learn and unlearn together.

Sanchita Ganguly
Sanchita Ganguly is a marketing professional with rich experience of almost 15 years across agencies and top brands. Sanchita’s experience of decade and half long professional journey inspired her to author a book “We-Men@Work” that intends to trigger conversation around gender neutrality at work places.
Sanchita can be reached at

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