Mind The Gap: Why We Need To Start A Conversation About Gender Dynamics In The Workplace
Considering the long hours that an average individual spends at their workplace, the need for a free, open environment where you can essentially be yourself is paramount. There’s a little something called the gender binary, which interferes, though, and the struggle to fit into society-approved moulds of male and female ends up meddling with the creative process. And as #TimesUp and #MeToo spread across our social media feeds with shocking revelations popping up every other week, it is clear that a nationwide reform is the call of the hour.
Mind the Gap is one such effort that delves into the interplay between gender dynamics and workplaces across India. The event is produced by Dysco , a professional networking app, website and community, in collaboration with MIXX — a platform that addresses gender issues through a curated range of products and experiences. On June 3rd, at WeWork BKC, Mind the Gap will unify a handpicked bunch of speakers, conversation topics and industries for a wholesome discourse about challenging stereotypes, norms and practices in creative and non-creative sectors alike. The event intends to make full use of panel discussions, art and photography exhibits, storytelling sessions, music performances, interactive displays, stand-up comedy and other innovating mediums to get this essential dialogue flowing in as engaging a manner possible. The ‘Boys of Safdarjung’ video art piece by Nikhil D, and the ‘Women Metro Drivers’ series exemplify how revolutionary work will be brought into the limelight via this event.
In conversation with Khrisha Shah, co-founder of Dysco and Ruchika Parab, co-founder of MIXX:
How does Mind the Gap reflect the unique raison d’etre of your organisation? What do you hope to achieve through the curation of events like these, vis-a-vis the expansion of your own company?
Ruchika: At MIXX, we’ve always been about conversations around the idea of gender equality. So Mind the Gap as a concept, is really in-sync with who we are and our intent. We’ve had some wonderful support from people across industries who have helped put it together, and others who have volunteered their time to join in the discussion. We’re hoping to generate a lot of interesting content from Mind the Gap, for our blog and zine. Putting that out and spreading awareness about #genderandthejob will be a focus for us in the near future.
Khrisha: Dysco’s modus operandi is bringing together talented and passionate people, brands, businesses, agencies and organisations on a common platform, online and offline, to network, collaborate, converse and learn from each other. We’ve been noticing that a huge part of our growing community have voiced their opinions, showcased their work, and told us their stories of challenging gender stereotypes and inequality in their chosen professions. It’s a topic they consider relevant, one that they are hungry to explore and something they want to share their thoughts on. We want to help bring this likeminded community together, help them connect and learn from each other.
About 30 per cent of our event attendees have been to a previous Dysco event, which reaffirms our belief that we’re building a meaningful and engaging community.
While curating the event, how did you go about selecting artists, speakers, performers whose work resonated with your brand’s ideologies? Were there any specific genres or ideas that you felt needed more recognition?
Ruchika: We’ve put this piece together, keeping these things in mind — Who are the voices we’d like to hear from, whose perspectives are valuable to us? From social entrepreneurs and sportspeople, to stand-up comedians and musicians, I guess MTG is our way of inviting them to one big party, the old-school kind, where you met really interesting people and had good conversations.
Khrisha: We were clear that we wanted to bring something fresh and new to the table – topics or genres that aren’t traditionally included in such events. Music and comedy everyone expects, but hearing about aviation and transport, that’s something different. It’s not just about sharing challenges, we’re equally excited to share success stories. India has the highest percentage of female pilots in the world, but not many people know that. Janaki Subramaniam is a pilot and photographer, who will be sharing her journey with us at MTG.
Our process of curation involves scouring those who are in our network (across our app users, website subscribers, event attendees and more), doing extensive research on their work and interests (across social media, mainstream media, websites and more), and speaking with influencers and thought leaders across industries.
Dysco doesn’t discriminate between those who are established and those who aren’t. We equally value upcoming talent and unknown influencers, so people continue discovering fresh faces rather than only hearing about those who are already recognised.
While conceptualising Dysco, what did you have in mind about incorporating workplace gender dynamics into the app? Especially in terms of how gender-friendly the interface and functioning of the app should be?
Khrisha: We put a lot of careful thought into the branding and design of Dysco. We asked ourselves what kind of a person Dysco would be if he/she/they were spotted at a party. What would Dysco be wearing? What adjectives would you use to describe Dysco if Dysco were a human? What tone of voice would Dysco have? We knew we wanted Dysco to be dynamic, inclusive and open to evolution. Each element of Dysco was designed to appeal to all genders and people of all professions. From the changing blob that forms a part of our logo, to the reason we’ve selected all colours as part of our brand identity, to how we position ourselves as ‘fluid’.
In the wake of #MeToo and #TimesUp, do you think this kind of event has an even larger relevance now? With high-profile cases of workplace harassment surfacing every other week, how essential do you believe this conversation is today?
Khrisha: It is one of the most important and pressing issues of our time. Look all around us, from Bollywood to Politics, acceptance and equality is the need of the hour across the board. People are often confused about what difference they can make, or what they can do on an individual level. I think opening your mind and learning about the issues is the very first step.
Dysco is actively working towards celebrating the work and stories of people of all genders. We ran a campaign for Mumbai Pride and interviewed a range of people challenging gender stereotypes in their professions (makeup artist Jason Arland, sculptor and educator Durga Gawde, and Sushant Divgikr) to tell people to respect and appreciate quality work, without considering gender as a factor. We also hosted a round table discussion themed around The Future of Digital is Female, where female entrepreneurs could share lessons and success stories from their professional journeys.
You’ve said that you want MIXX to be known as a lifestyle, not an organisation. How do you intend to set your brand apart, considering that the gender awareness scene in the country has revived itself quite dynamically in recent times?
Ruchika: MIXX is an urban phenomenon, spinning off art and popular culture to create conversations around the idea of gender equality. We believe there’s a lot of room for initiatives to make themselves more relevant. Which is why, we aim to create products and experiences across a spectrum of elements – design, publishing, fashion, film, school curriculums and events.
We don’t consider ourselves a brand; we’re more of a platform – a space for people and ideas to converge. In the last six months it been really interesting to see how artists, designers, photographers, non-binary models, writers, sex and gender experts have taken our message and made it their own. From ‘Boys Equal Girls’ to ‘The Street Has No Gender’, we’ve seen people expand our message and add new dimensions to it. Isn’t that what you’d call a platform?
A conversation about sex and gender in the country is so important and there’s so many ways to come at it and address it, I don’t believe we can ever have enough. We’re just doing what we’re doing. The more the merrier!
After the success and reach of the ‘Boys Equals Girls’ t-shirt, do you intend for your next launch to be along the same accessible lines, or do you have something else in mind?
Ruchika: We have a new t-shirt coming up! In fact, we’re launching it at Mind The Gap. It’s a progression from our ‘Boys Equal Girls’ t-shirt. It reflects the shape MIXX has taken in last eight months since our inception. We’re curious to see how it’ll be received.