The #MeToo movement has been an eye-opener about the dark underbelly of the Creative and Media business, and has sent out a message that the industry cannot ignore. When women with years of pentup frustration which allowed the powerful to sexually harass their colleagues or subordinates, tasted liberation in the form of a Facebook or Twitter post, an industry which was known for shaping a progressive society had to hang its head in shame. A bunch of strong women in influential positions across creative and design agencies then decided to come together to form The Collective, to ensure that the next crop of youngsters walking through their doors is armed with knowledge about what is acceptable and what is not and also to provide support to those facing harassment. Three weeks later, they are ready with an action plan.
Tista Sen, Regional Creative Director, JWT, and one of the women spearheading The Collective, which aims to create a safe work culture for women and men in advertising, digital and design agencies around the country, says, “We are planning a series of seminars/ workshops in conjunction with advertising forums and agencies to talk about what constitutes appropriate behaviour and what we need to change in terms of culture. Education and awareness regarding individual rights is something that needs to be addressed simultaneously. The bigger picture is to create a safe environment where you can work freely and know that you can approach your POSH committee freely as well. We cannot do this without the support of the entire industry. It is a clarion call that needs to resonate across boardrooms and workstations. We propose to work with them and together make this action plan a reality. The response has been heartening and this itself is the fuel we need to move forward. It’s time.”
The signatories of ‘The Collective’ (see box) have come forward in their individual capacities. They have diversity and legal representatives as part of the team, to help them walk the path from intent to action. Explaining step by step how they will go about it, another signatory, Ashwini Deshpande, Co-Founder & Director, Elephant Design, says, “If a person who has experienced sexual harassment reaches out to us, we will ensure that the complaint is understood by us through a single point of contact. Post that, we will facilitate the process of complaining to the specific company’s HR and Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). We will track and follow up until the complaint is investigated and taken to its logical conclusion. If the company is too small to have an ICC or if there are other issues such as the complaint is against the founder/owner of the company and the ICC is not able to work satisfactorily, we will help the complainant take it ahead to the Local Complaints Committee (LCC). Our support will be in the form of facilitation, follow up emails and even face-to-face meetings as may be needed.”
But considering that this is a body made up of influential but voluntary leaders, and not something set up by the Government or an organization, what kind of powers will it have? Deshpande says, “Sometimes, the greatest positive changes happen through collective will power and consistent advocacy. We are as strong as we believe we are and we hope many likeminded people will join us in creating a safer work atmosphere for all. We also have tremendous media support and we count on them to be our good ambassadors.”