Serein

How COVID-19 is an Opportunity To Come Together As A Gender Equal Society – Starting at Home

Chryslynn D'Costa

- May 1, 2020

A few years ago I stood in a grade one classroom in rural Rajasthan. I was teaching the children shapes. A very enthusiastic child stood up and insisted on sharing a poem. “ Mummy ki roti gol gol. Papa ka paisa gol gol…” (Mother’s chapatis are round and father’s money is round). At the age of five, this child had acknowledged that the mother’s place was in the kitchen and that the money belonged to the father.

Curious, I asked, “Why does the money belong to your father?” Without any hesitation, the child answered, “Because he earned it.” “So does mummy have any money?”, I asked. “If mummy wants money she has to ask father for it.”

My thought was, “How would daddy go to work if mummy didn’t walk two hours to collect the water, forty minutes to collect firewood to heat the water, wake at 5am to milk the cow for tea, bathe you for school….” But I let it rest. 

This is rural Rajasthan but how different is the picture in urban India. Last week a manager concluded an online team meeting. “Great to see all your faces after so long. We should catch up at least twice a week on video call.” The other team members nodded in agreement. “Twice a week sounds good Sir, but I may be busy in the morning if my wife makes me do her dishes or cut some vegetables.” said one of the male colleagues. Everyone laughed.

The COVID 19 situation has left middle and upper middle class India stranded without their house help requiring men to participate in household chores. Surely some men are stepping up at an individual level. But what is the extent of the male participation in household work? More importantly how sustainable is this participation when regular life resumes? 

During this lockdown when we are reflecting on lifestyle change, it is important to assess how COVID 19 can be an opportunity to re-distribute unpaid work and achieve gender equality.

What is unpaid work? In her book Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, Caroline Criado Perez explains that the term working woman is a tautology as there is no such thing as a woman who doesn’t work. There is only a woman who is paid for work and a woman who isn’t. In economic research, caregiving of children and elderly and other household chores that are critical for the survival of the family are referred to as unpaid work.

According to the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2020 there is no country where men spend the same amount of time on unpaid work as women. And even in countries where the gender gap ratio is lowest (i.e. Norway or the United States), the ratio of unpaid work by women and men is still 2:1 respectively.

Globally 75 percent of unpaid work is done by women. Women in India currently spend upto 352 minutes per day on domestic work, 577% more than men (52 minutes). Indian women spend at least 40% more than women in South Africa and China according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Traditional gender norms, lack of government policy for elder or child care giving,  absence of infrastructure and basic necessities like water and cooking gas continue to perpetuate these statistics.

Despite the assistance of paid house helpers, women continue to do the bulk of unpaid work because although the urban woman does not collect water or firewood, she still makes the lunch boxes, meal plan, grocery list, dirty laundry and much more.

Why is it important to address the gender gap in unpaid work? Unpaid work penalizes women. Girls as young as five do significantly more housework than their brothers. This increases with age. In the rural context, young girls in countries like Africa and India are expected to collect water for their family. This task is often repeated many times a day, preventing young girls from attending mainstream schools.

Caroline Criado Perez explains that although women have increasingly joined the paid workforce, men have not subsequently increased their share of unpaid work. Women now do a double shift regardless of the proportion of household income they bring – office and home. Research continues to show the physical and mental health penalties women pay for this double shift.

A Finnish study showed how single women recover better from heart attacks than married women. Married women who have undergone a bypass surgery tend to go right back into the household work as compared to men who have a caregiver.

In India unpaid work prevents women from taking up full-time employment. Despite increasing levels of educational attainment, the female labour force participation of women in India is 24.8 percent. This keeps women from contributing their expertise to the country’s economy, inturn impacting the GDP. Indian women’s unpaid work plays a crucial role in sustaining economic activity, equivalent to 3.1% of GDP. But it also hinders the woman’s achievement of economic freedom. Leaving women with less decision making power and in many cases having to continue living in abusive homes.

It is useful for families in safe homes to reflect on how the distribution of unpaid work can be sustained post the lockdown. A safe household provides women a space to communicate. Unfortunately, not all Indian homes have this safe space. But homes that do will require both men and women to step out of their comfort zone. This requires the male partner to ask and the female partner to communicate.

Research suggests that women often attribute their performance of unpaid work to their accomplishment as a wife or mother. However, in truth a woman’s mental and physical health is critical to a marriage and parenthood. Women must attempt to better communicate the areas where help is required and importantly be ok if those tasks are not always accomplished with perfection. It is important that the woman not step in when a task is assigned to the child or partner but allow them time with their learning curve.

It is important for men to participate in the less glamorous household responsibilities. Going beyond bike rides and picnics with the children to prepare the morning tiffin, make the doctor’s appointment, put the laundry in the cupboard, plan the meals and grocery list. 

Redistribution of unpaid work will bring us closer to a more gender equal society where daughters have an increased access to education, employment and economic freedom and sons have the freedom to choose their career paths beyond the traditional narrow idea of being the sole provider.


About the Author

Chryslynn D’Costa is the Co-founder and Head of Research at Serein. After studying Economics from St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai, Chryslynn joined the Gandhi Fellowship Program in Rajasthan that addresses educational leadership in rural government schools. She graduated from Azim Premji University in Bangalore with a Master’s in Education. Her work at APU and in Rajasthan strengthened her interest and expertise on leadership, gender, diversity and inclusion. It has led her to understand the nuances of organisational culture and workings of diverse teams. Chryslynn is a regular columnist with publications such as LiveMint and The Hindu and serves as external member to several company’s Internal Committee (IC).

Serein Inc is an end to end service partner for the implementation of Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) legal compliance. We partner with companies on case redressal and policies to proactively build safer work cultures and sexual harassment (POSH) trainings either in person or virtually. For more details on diversity, inclusion and prevention of sexual harassment (POSH training in India and the US) send us a note.

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Siri Prasad

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Siri Prasad is a Safety and PoSH Expert at Serein and serves as an External Member of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) for Serein’s clients. Her work is not limited to, but includes advising in legal procedures, best practices for safe work cultures, and reviewing of PoSH policies and labor law compliance.

Siri is a Gold Medallist and holds a BBA, LLB (Hons.) from Christ University and a Masters in Science (International Employment Relations) from the London School of Economics and Political Science, where she also served as the EDI Officer.

Thejaswini CA

LMS Platform Associate

Thejaswini is responsible for the operations and maintenance of Serein’s in-house e-learning platform. She assists customers to deliver learning content and assess employee engagement through Serein’s tracking system. 

Thejaswini is also engaged with finance and other operations to ensure Serein’s 500+ long-term partners are compliant with the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) law.

Thejaswini holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Application from Field Marshal KM Cariappa College, Kodagu.

Dr. Ishani Roy

Founder and CEO

Ishani founded Serein to provide a data and research-based approach to solving DEI challenges at the workplace. She advises company leaders, startup founders, and venture capital firms on industry best practices to increase diversity and design a DEI roadmap.

Ishani is a recipient of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award 2023 for the global impact of her work in the DEI space.

Before founding Serein, Ishani was a scientist at GE Research working in the Aerospace Lab. She holds a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics from Brown University on developing mathematical models to solve Astrophysics problems. She did her Post-doctoral studies at the University of Oxford and St. Thomas Hospital in Biomathematics.

Chryslynn D’Costa

Co-founder and CPO |

Chryslynn leads the product development of Serein’s DEI SaaS tool. She designs learning content and strategic insights for companies to measure their DEI growth, and achieve bias-free recruitment and psychological safety.

Chryslynn is a regular columnist with publications like ‘LiveMint’ and ‘The Hindu’ where she writes about unconscious bias, prevention of sexual harassment, and company culture.

Before Serein, she was a Gandhi Fellow working in rural Rajasthan to address educational leadership and gender equity in government schools. She graduated from Azim Premji University in Bangalore with a Master’s in Education where she specialised in gender and sexuality education.

Bianca D’Costa

Head of PoSH: India, Global

Bianca leads the compliance partnerships and workshops on anti-sexual harassment, anti-harassment and anti-discrimination laws in India, South East Asia, Europe, and the USA. She has 100+ hours of experience consulting on sexual harassment investigations in the workplace.

Bianca designs gamified learning modules for a unique and impactful learner experience on topics like gender inclusion, PwD inclusion, LGBTQIA+ inclusion, and regional inclusion among others. 

Before Serein, Bianca worked in hospitality for 5 years with Emirates Airlines. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from St. Xavier’s University, Mumbai. She is presently pursuing a Master’s degree in Gender and Sexuality in Global Politics from SOAS University of London.

Aparna Pandurangan

Head of Operations

Aparna is leading the finance and operations at Serein. She has also been responsible for Serein’s online platform, customer management, and marketing.

She works closely with Serein’s 500+ long-term partners to ensure they are compliant with the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) law. Aparna is a workshop facilitator on topics like the prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace in languages like Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada.

Aparna Pandurangan holds a degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Anna University, Chennai. 

Faakirah Irfan

Head of Legal

Faakirah is a legal professional and expert facilitator on topics like anti-sexual harassment, anti-harassment and anti-discrimination laws in India, South East Asia, Europe, and the USA. Faakirah has conducted 100+ training sessions on the prevention of sexual harassment for employees and internal committee members.

She has 150+ hours of experience consulting on sexual harassment investigations in the workplace. Her legal research at Serein includes policy analysis, human rights, women’s rights, and document drafting.

Faakirah is an experienced legal professional. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in law with a focus on women’s rights and policy analysis from the University of Kashmir. She holds a Master of Law degree specializing in alternative dispute resolution from O.P Jindal School of Law.

Dr. Ruchika Sharma

Guest Consultant: Gender

Ruchika assists with research and facilitation of sessions on domestic violence, sexual harassment, employee well-being, and women’s leadership. She is a feature writer for Serein’s blogs where she writes about gender, women’s history, domestic violence, and sexual harassment awareness in the workplace.

Ruchika is a published author with books like ‘Concubinage, Race and Law in Early Colonial Bengal: Bequeathing Intimacy, Servicing the Empire’ published by Routledge, Taylor, and Francis publications. She has been teaching History at the University of Delhi for over a decade. She has a Ph.D. in History from the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Arathi Kannan

Head of DEI: India, Global

Arathi leads the design and execution of DEI measurement tools for global partners. These include Serein’s Diversity Index, the scope of unconscious bias in recruitment and promotions, and the scope of unconscious bias in external messaging. 

She has also designed a standardized tool to review company policies and products through an inclusion lens. Arathi leads workshops on inclusion, unconscious bias, domestic violence, mental health, and well-being. 

Arathi is a published researcher with Master’s degrees in Applied Psychology and Criminology from Bond University, Australia. Her experience includes working with people from different backgrounds, including refugee groups.

Rhea D’Silva

Designer

Rhea is the aesthetic and creative eye behind Serein’s marketing and sales collateral. She manages website content and social media content calendar. She works closely with Serein’s content experts to design catchy invites, toolkits, and company culture reports.

Rhea creates animated content for Serein’s learning platform. She is focused on understanding the user’s need for engagement and learning to create impactful content. 

Rhea holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Media from St. Xavier’s University, Mumbai where she majored in advertising.

Aseem Deuskar

Inclusive Workspace Architect

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Aseem is an Inclusive Workspace Architect dedicated to reshaping workplace diversity and accessibility. He is skilled in conducting comprehensive accessibility audits and implementing inclusive design solutions.


Aseem is passionate about creating environments that foster equal opportunities

He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning.

 

Bhavini Pant

Safety and PoSH expert

Bhavini serves as a PoSH external member for 30+ companies in industries like education, healthcare, IT, Pharma, and more. She has 70+ hours of experience consulting on sexual harassment investigations in the workplace and supporting partner organizations on the legal procedure and best practices for workplace safety.

Before Serein, Bhavini worked as an archivist at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, and as an editorial assistant for IIT Bombay’s PR and Alumni Associations department.

She has a Master’s degree in Education from Azim Premji University where she worked extensively with the management on anti-sexual harassment legal implementation. Her work involved the interpretation of the law in a university as a workplace and an educational institution for adults. 

Rishab Prasad

DEI Specialist

Rishab is passionate about creating long-term partnerships with Serein’s customers. He is responsible for marketing, operations, customer onboarding, contract writing, and relationship building. Rishab uses his directing and filmmaking skills to design engaging content for Serein’s social media platforms.

Rishab holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics with Honours from CHRIST University, Bangalore. He has directed more than nine short films on topics like stigmas of menstruation, widowhood, and adoption.

Kirtika N

Safety and PoSH expert

Kirtika is an expert speaker and workshop facilitator on topics like sexual harassment awareness, bystander intervention, and anti-harassment redressal mechanisms. She has developed learning content for investigating committees on topics like witness cooperation in a workplace sexual harassment inquiry proceeding. 

Kirtika serves as a PoSH external member for 30+ companies in fintech, healthcare, business management, gaming, and more. She has 50+ hours of experience consulting on sexual harassment investigations at the workplace and supporting partner organisations on legal procedure and best practices.

She has a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Montfort College, Bengaluru, and has experience working as a trainee counselor.

Sharanya Venkataraghavan

Safety and PoSH expert

Sharanya serves as a PoSH external member for 15+ companies in e-commerce, fintech, healthcare, SaaS, and more. She supports partner organisations on legal procedures and best practices to build safe work cultures.

She has been involved in the review of PoSH policies, labour law compliances, and research regarding the risk of secondary victimisation of complainants under the PoSH Act.

Sharanya graduated with BBA, LLB (Hons.) degree from Symbiosis Law School, Pune. She has experience in PoSH and employment law with notable law firms like Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas and Co., J. Sagar and Associates, among others.

Nandini Abraham

Statistical Analyst

Nandini conducts extensive industry-specific research on DEI trends in India, South East Asia, Europe, and the USA. Nandini is responsible for developing statistical models for DEI assessment on Serein’s DEI SaaS Tool. She designs measurement tools for DEI benchmarking, inclusion assessments, and employee experience surveys.

Nandini is passionate about creating engaging and impactful reports, toolkits, and playbooks for Serein’s customers.

Nandini holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, Mathematics & Statistics from St. Joseph’s College, Bangalore.

Nithya R

HR and Compliance Lead

Nithya drives operational excellence within the HR function. She ensures that Serein maintains the highest standards of HR practices and ethical conduct. Her role extends beyond traditional HR responsibilities as she also serves as an External Member of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) for Serein’s clients, specialising in preventing workplace harassment through the PoSH vertical.

Nithya has graduated in Commerce from the University of Lucknow and has rich experience in hiring and retaining the best talents in the industry with companies like BukuWarung and Belong.co.

Sri Padmavathi C

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Sri Padmavathi C specialises in providing accounting consulting services to companies. She helps in assisting & maintaining Serein’s Books of Accounts, GST, TDS, PT filing, financial statements preparation & audit review.
 
She holds an MBA with Finance Specialisation from Annamalai University, and has also has done CA articleship under CA Tom Joseph’s guidance.

Anisha Debnath

PoSH and DEI Workshops Facilitator

As a PoSH and DEI Workshops Facilitator, Anisha is primarily responsible for conducting sessions and facilitating conversations that enable building of safe and inclusive workplaces for all. Anisha also undertakes in-depth research into various Diversity, Equity and Inclusion issues that plague our work cultures today. All of this research goes into designing bespoke sessions and curating interactive learning experiences for several of Serein’s partners. 

Anisha has a background in History, especially in the history of gender and early feminism in colonial South Asia. 

Anisha has a Bachelor’s degree in History (Hons.) from Gargi College, University of Delhi. She has also studied for an MPhil in World History from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.

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