“Sometimes when you are faced with a difficult situation, you are torn between keeping silent and speaking out, as there are consequences for both. It’s challenging for all women,” a participant shared at the recent International Women’s Day event organised by the Asian School of Business (ASB) and Cultural Impact.
Exchange Theatre is a distinct experience as it offers a safe space to share one’s opinions and to practically try out ideas with actors in real time. The scenarios acted out by the Kuala Lumpur Shakespeare Players (KLSP) actors help to open conversations on sensitive topics such as gender dynamics at work. It creates an environment where people feel comfortable discussing issues they have faced or witnessed in the workplace, preparing participants for potentially uncomfortable encounters in the future.
While watching the scenarios, I was confronted by the question - what would I do if I were the one facing discriminatory remarks in the workplace?
I know for certain that my blood would run cold upon hearing the remarks. I would also feel embarrassed being put on the spot in front of my colleagues. But underneath it all, I would feel utterly confused about how to respond in such a situation.
An overstatement? Definitely not.
Discrimination and gender harassment should not be taken lightly. What we heard from the audience on that day proved that it is still happening. It is terrifying to learn how some people seem to have normalised this behaviour in the workplace, even among women, just because they have seen many cases like this. It is well-known that this issue has become our reality and has its roots embedded in society at large yet our attitude should not propel this morally wrong behaviour further. A workplace should foster inclusivity and equity to create a positive and progressive work environment otherwise the act of condoning improper behaviour from some people may compromise the productivity of other employees.
Now, the following question we are seeking is what is the solution?
Awareness is the key solution to this problem. It is pertinent to create awareness and educate people, men and women alike on the issue with the aim to understand and acknowledge the challenges of women who have been suffering in silence from the discriminatory remarks. However, it is tricky to say that doing so will eliminate the cases to zero. Hence, I have learned a way to tackle this by voicing out our concern to the organisation should we encounter this behaviour in future, and whether we are the victims or the witnesses, we should not laugh to avoid giving condoning signals to the inappropriate behaviour.
On a final note, let us do ourselves and others justice and be bold to let our voices be heard.
Written by Anis Syahira