Money Can Buy Everything

A woman called me up recently and said that someone is willing to pay her huge amount of money for investment in her business. Problem was, they did not want to disclose their identity and would be transferring money from Sri Lanka. I told her I suspected that the people involved are attempting money laundering. She believed the same and refused the transfer of funds.

I realized that the people behind white-collar crime believe one thing – “Money can buy everything”. That is the core motivation. Otherwise, professionals earning huge salaries would not be rationalizing fraud. The American money market economy reiterates this concept; hence, even the normal people are pursuing money blindly. All relationships and every person seem to have a price. So let me ask you the question:

Now let me paint you a picture of the future world. In that world you do not have to produce kids, no woman has to get pregnant and tolerate the pregnancy woes for nine months. Whenever you feel like becoming a parent, you just have to visit a shop. Lifeless kids’ bodies are available of all sizes and shapes. When you choose one, the shopkeeper installs a battery and wham, the kid is alive. You can choose a new-born, a two-year-old etc. at a certain price.

Next, you don’t have to train the child on anything if you don’t want to. You have the option of raising the child the normal way or using patches. For example, if you wish your child to learn cricket, you just purchase a patch and install it, and the kid knows cricket.

Contemplate the advantages of this situation. As a parent, you won’t have to spend countless hours changing dirty nappies and watching the child struggle to learn to walk and talk. Mothers won’t have to sacrifice their professional and social life. You won’t have to sacrifice Dhoni and teams match to watch your son’s floundering attempts on the cricket field. You won’t have to watch your daughters giving a disastrous dance performance. After these, you won’t have to give a beaming smile and make it sound that it was the greatest performance in the world. You won’t have to make any sacrifices. There will be no pain, no tears of frustration and no disappointments. So now, let me ask you a question.

If you have answered that you would prefer the natural way, then the question is why? Why choose hard work, heartbreak and pain over an automatic high quality child? The reason goes back to root of our psychology. Raising a child gives purpose and meaning to the life. When our child does well, we feel a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment and pride. The joy and happiness we get are worth all the tears, heart breaks and sacrifices. Parents put their life on hold for 20 years to raise a child and then the child leaves home to make his/her own life. If you look it from a financial angle, it doesn’t sound much of a deal. Yet, nearly every adult wants to do it.

If I look this from another angle, another basic human need is sex. Hence, according to this viewpoint  prostitution should be legal in all countries (It is illegal in India). There should be no moral judgment on purchasing sex. The question is then why do the people who use prostitutes don’t stay with them? Why do they come back home? Why do most of them go back to the same prostitute rather than try a new one every time? The reason is simple. However good the sex was, it doesn’t give a sense of belonging. Objects don’t give happiness, relationships do. Commoditizing takes away the warmth, peace and happiness.

The same difference applies for money earned through hard work and by frauds. Money earned the wrong way doesn’t give you pride and joy. I think all of us remember our first salary and the sense of “I did it”. The salary was peanuts in comparison to twenty years of studying hard. But we remember the first salary till our dying day.

In my opinion, money can only give a comfortable standard of living and nothing more. We don’t even need money even power, recognition and status. We simply are getting lost in the mad race.

Closing Thoughts

Today is Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary, one of the most recognized and respected leaders of the 20th century. Even in this day and age, his dhoti, shawl and chapel can be purchased in India in less than Rs 1000/-. In President Obama’s inauguration ceremonies, Michelle Obama’s clothes were a topic of discussion. Some would argue that present days leaders need it. I think if Gandhi ji had been alive today, he would be living in less than Rs 20,000/- a month.  We need to re-look where we are heading in the mindless pursuit of money while convincing ourselves that our life in other areas is fine. As Mahatma Gandhi said – “One man cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in any other departments. Life is one indivisible whole.”

Justice Verma’s Report – A Respite for Indian Women

Justice Verma’s report besides covering sexual harassment at workplace also covers other crimes committed on women. Most of these questions were never raised or those who raised them were unheard. Nevertheless, for a civilized democratic nation, the existing social attitudes need to be challenged. India cannot become a global super power when it is the fourth unsafe country in the world for women, nearly 50% of its population. It is our duty to question existing archetypes, advocate change and bring about new thinking.

India was among the few countries that gave equal rights to women on Independence in its Constitution. Mahatma Gandhi thoughts reflected his open thinking in the following words. Let us make them a reality in this century.

“Woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacities. She has the right to participate in the minutest details in the activities of man, and she has an equal right of freedom and liberty with him. She is entitled to a supreme place in her own sphere of activity as man is in his. This ought to be the natural condition of things and not as a result only of learning to read and write. By sheer force of a vicious custom, even the most ignorant and worthless men have been enjoying a superiority over woman which they do not deserve and ought not to have. Many of our movements stop half way because of the condition of our women.”

The issue is at the heart of Indian society and below are few points from the report that I wish to bring to your attention.

1.     Rape and Sexual Assault

The Indian Penal Code defines rape as:

“A man is said to commit “rape” who, except in the case hereinafter excepted, has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under any of the six following descriptions:—

First.—Against her will.

Secondly.—Without her consent.

Thirdly.—With her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her or any person in whom she is interested in fear of death or of hurt.

Fourthly.—With her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband, and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married.

Fifthly.—With her consent, when, at the time of giving such consent, by reason of unsoundness of mind or intoxication or the administration by him personally or through another of any stupefying or unwholesome substance, she is unable to understand the nature and consequences of that to which she gives consent.

Sixth.—With or without her consent, when she is under sixteen years of age.”

In Indian society, few women are able to exercise their right to object or say no. Men obtain consent through psychological, emotional, financial and physical coercion and threat. The popular concept is that rich men do not rape, it is only poor men who rape women. If a rich man obtains consent through coercion, the women agreed. The standard should be clear. Any man who forces himself on a woman when she has said no is attempting rape. Sex with a woman when she is opposing or resisting is rape. Consent given out of fear or criminal intimidation is rape. Period.

The situation of an Indian wife is the worst possible in the world. Every woman in the world has a right to say no, except an Indian wife. She is duty bound to have sex with her husband. For the first time Justice Verma has included marital rape. Wife is not a property of the husband and has the right to revoke her consent to sex during the course of her marriage. The report states- “A rapist remains a rapist irrespective of the relationship with the victim.” In mordern context, marriage is a relationship of equals and consent cannot be assumed as implied.

Secondly, rape victims face extreme humiliation in courts when their past personal life is dragged for discussion. The defense lawyers ruin the reputation of the victim by bringing past love affairs. In Indian society, if a woman has sex outside of her marriage she becomes characterless. The whole attitude adds insult to injury. Justice Verma has recommended that a woman’s past life cannot be a subject matter for debate in court in a rape case.

It requires extreme courage in India for a woman to report rape and most of the cases go unreported due to the social stigma a raped woman faces. She is ostracized and alienated by the society and her reputation is ruined. The abusive men proudly boast about their power and accomplishments in brow beating women into submission. This attitude needs complete revamping as it distorts the justice system. Society should view rape as a crime and not evaluate it on a shame-honor paradigm as it puts the victimized woman on trial instead of the rapist.

Sohaila Abdulali, a rape victim had succinctly put it – “Rape is horrible. But it is not horrible for all the reasons that have been drilled into the heads of Indian women. It is horrible because you are violated, you are scared, someone else takes control of your body and hurts you in the most intimate way. It is not horrible because you lose your “virtue.” It is not horrible because your father and your brother are dishonored. I reject the notion that my virtue is located in my vagina, just as I reject the notion that men’s brains are in their genitals.” This brave heart has the courage to break the rigid thinking and fight against atrocities.

2.     Eve Teasing and Stalking

The Indian Journal of Criminology and Criminalistics (January- June 1995 Edn.) has categorized eve teasing into five heads viz. (1) verbal eve teasing; (2) physical eve teasing; (3) psychological harassment; (4) sexual harassment; and (5) harassment through some objects. In India the safety of women is at risk in all public places and not just the workplace. Women are sexually harassed in public spaces by men making unwarranted comments. In some cases, the obscene words and gestures seriously impact the dignity of women.

A minor girl in India from the time of achieving puberty becomes a target of eve teasing. As India is a conservative society, she learns to suffer the indignities quietly. As such with the parental attitude that girls are a liability, Indian girls have a low self-esteem. They are trained to behave according to “what will people say”. Hence, the young unsure girl suffers psychologically and emotionally without an outlet since she cannot share her “shame”. If she does so, she will be shunned.

For men it is just an entertaining pastime to demonstrate their machismo. They generally go unpunished due to the lax implementation of criminal action in these cases. Women hardly report the cases to police though eve-teasing is a criminal offence

Justice Verma’s report gives recommendations to curtail eve-teasing. He has suggested  deputation of female police officers at public places, installation of CCTV cameras in public places, filing of police complaints by public transport and public place operators etc. These are steps in the right direction.

If a man wishes to talk to a woman, he can do so in a graceful and dignified manner without offending the sensibilities of the woman. He does not need to stalk a woman, behave in an uncouth and uncivilized manner to get attention. Moreover, if a woman has rejected his advances, he should accept that gracefully. His interest and her rejection do not give a right to harass and abuse her. The women should not adopt a defeatist attitude or try to convince themselves that the man is showing affection and liking. He is blatantly saying that he does not respect you or your wishes. Thankfully, Justice Verma’s report has included stalking as a criminal offense.

Closing Thoughts

Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is about fighting fear tooth and nail in every step we take to define a new path. The educated women and men of India need to fight this battle for their less privileged counterparts. When Indian women could fight shoulder to shoulder in the non-violent struggle for Indian Independence, they can fight now too. In life, always the crazies have brought about change. Don’t be scared to be marked as quirky or non-conformist, you are in good company. Before Independence, British thought Mahatma Gandhi as a fruitcake. The point is, no one will fight your battle for you. We need to do it for ourselves. Progress of Indian women serves India’s national interest. Hence, let us move forward with courage and conviction to redefine the status of women in Indian society

References:

Report of the Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law – Justice Verma,

Justice Verma’s Report – Views on Sexual Harassment at Workplace

Justice Verma’s report covers sexual harassment at the workplace. While in September Lok Sabha cleared the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2012, it is pending with the Rajya Sabha. The Supreme Court ruling of the Vishakha case in 1998 hasn’t improved the condition of women in the workplace. It looks like things are finally changing for the better with Justice Verma’s report as he covers some critical issues about the topic. Here is a brief overview of the issues Indian working women face and the relevant aspects of the act. The Indian organizations will now have to address these human resource risks properly.

1.     Background  

The Indian Constitution grants equal rights to women. It states that women have the fundamental rights to life with human dignity, to equality, and to work in ones chosen profession or trade inherently include protection from sexual harassment. Article 42 emphasis that – “The State shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief”. The Constitution guarantees certain fundamental freedom to women as it considers that as a bedrock for democracy. However, Indian society even after over 60 years of independence considers women a subservient gender. Sexual harassment is rampant in society including the workplace.

Finally, the 2012 Sexual Harassment Act will provide some protection to women. According to the act, sexual harassment constitutes of the following unwelcome acts or behavior (whether directly or by implication) namely:

(i)              physical contact and advances; or

(ii)             a demand or request for sexual favors; or

(iii)            making sexually colored remarks; or

(iv)           showing pornography; or

(v)            any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

Further on, the act states that the following circumstances, along other circumstances, if they occur or are in relation to or connected with any act or behavior of sexual harassment may amount to sexual harassment:-

(i)              implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in her employment.

(ii)             implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in her employment

(iii)            implied or explicit threat about her present or future employment

(iv)           interferes with her work or creating an intimidating or offensive work environment for her; or

(v)            humiliating treatment likely to affect her health or safety

2.     Formation of Employment Tribunal

The act mentions formation of Internal Complaints Committee by the organization and a Local Complaints Committee at district or local level. The logic is that the employee should first address the complaint internally and if the employer is involved then the aggrieved women should approach the Local Complaints Committee. However, as we have seen in the ten years after the Vishaka case, these are not effective when senior managers are involved in sexual harassment. The woman generally loses her job if she files a complaint as the Internal Committee driven by Human Resource department supports the senior management.

Justice Verma report suggests formation of Employment Tribunal. He suggests that Internal Complaints Committee and Local Complaints Committee are not required as this process dissuades the women from complaining. I completely agree with Justice Verma. The senior managers will have lessor influence on external parties.

3.     Punishment on Filing False Complaint

The act states that if the Internal Committee or Local Committee determines that the allegation made by the woman was malicious or false, the woman can be punished for filing a false complaint

Justice Verma’s report recommends that a woman should not be punished for filing a false complaint.

Though, overall I am against the view of filing false cases and consider that these should be punishable. However, in case of sexual harassment, my view is that the women should not be punished. In all probability, there will be a few false cases filed by some crooked women. But in India due to society’s attitude, very few women have the courage to fight sexual harassment publicly  Secondly, if they file a case against senior managers, with the corruption level existing in the country, most cases can be made into false complaints. Hence, in these cases women should not be penalized if the case is proven false.

4.     Time Period for Filing Complaint

The act states that a woman should file the sexual harassment complaint within three months of the incident or the last incident.

Justice Verma states that there should be no time limit for filing the complaint.

I agree with Justice Verma’s suggestion. Indian women are geared to think that humiliating and sexually harassing behavior is acceptable. The kind of thinking is “men will be men”. Very few women have the courage to point blankly tell a man that sexually harassing behavior is unacceptable in civilized society. Hence, women generally file a complaint after repeated harassment. Problem further is intensified for married women, since the husbands tend to blame the wife for inappropriate behavior  There is a high-level social stigma attached to it, and sometimes marriage breaks up. Lastly, sexual harassers threaten a woman by spreading rumors and doing various acts to ruin her reputation. Hence, in Indian context there should not be a time limit for filing the complaint.

5.     Transfer of the Complainant

The act specifies that the Internal Committee or the Local Committee can transfer the aggrieved woman or grant leave to her.

Justice Verma’s report states that this should be done with the consent of the woman.

I agree with the logic of Justice Verma. Sometimes if a woman files a case in one city, she will be transferred to a remote place from where travelling expense will be significant or unaffordable. Hence, the woman will be unable to fight her case.

Moreover, sometimes she is forced to take leave and then rumours are spread. When she comes back, her job is given to another person. After waiting for a couple of months in the hostile climate, she automatically quits. Hence, in all these cases a woman’s consent should be mandatory before any action is taken

6.     Conciliation

The act states that the Internal Committee or the Local Committee at request of the aggrieved woman takes steps to settle the matter between her and the respondent through conciliation. The settlement so arrived should be recorded.

Justice Verma contends that conciliation is against the dignity of the woman and adds further to the humiliation. Hence, the section should be deleted.

In my view, the act states that conciliation process should start at the request of the woman. Hence, it is her practical choice and she should be allowed that. In Indian society, a woman may not have the means to continue a case for long and her reputation is perpetually at risk.

However, the act should specify the level and magnitude up to which conciliation should be attempted. If a woman is being threatened or the case is serious, she should be advised against conciliation and provided adequate protection from retaliation.

7.     Compensation and Employer Liability

The act states that an appropriate amount should be deducted from the salary and wages of the respondent and paid to the aggrieved women. If the employer is unable to deduct, for instance, the employee leaves the organization, and respondent fails to pay, the same will be forwarded to the District Officer.

In my view, the organization is liable for compensation as it failed to provide a secure and dignified working environment to the woman. Justice Verma has also mentioned that employer should be liable to pay for all losses incurred by the women due to sexual harassment.

The act only specifies a fine up to fifty thousand rupees is the employer fails to constitute an Internal Committee or contravenes any of the sections of the act. This amount is peanuts for large organizations and they shall blatantly ignore the act. Justice Verma has rightly recommended a prison sentence in case there is a systemic flaw and discrimination is encouraged. In India in some organizations, sexual harassment by senior managers is considered a right. They can choose any women and she is required to comply.

Closing Thoughts

Justice Verma has done a commendable job in highlighting the problems women face in Indian society and in giving solutions. For once, the report isn’t a white wash to cover some political agenda and shares strong opinions. We have to hope that the government takes the required steps with the same speed the report was issued. More than 25% women in India face sexual harassment at workplace and they have no effective redressal system to file their complaints. For a civilized democratic society, this is an unacceptable situation. The Indian organizations would find the rules tough to follow. However,  25-30% of employee strength constitutes of women. Hence, they must ensure secure and dignified working environment. Finally, after a woman lost her life in a gang rape, we are moving in the right direction. May her sacrifice be worth it.

Wish my Indian readers a Happy Republic Day. Especially the women, hope you get the freedom denied to you even after independence. 
 

References:

  1. Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2012
  2. Report of the Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law – Justice Verma,

Barclays War on Culture Change

Barclays is again in the limelight due to a damaging report on the deviant culture existing in the Investment division. After LIBOR rate fixing scandal and quick departures of senior managers, trouble is again brewing in Barclays. The COO of Investment banking division, Andrew Tinney quit when it was discovered that he shredded the only copy of a report that clearly stated the bullying culture of the organization. Then the new CEO, Anthony Jenkins discovered when an internal whistle blower mentioned it to him. He sent out a message to staff on culture change. Here are some insights into the story.

1. The Damaging Report on Dysfunctional Culture

Daily Mail story states that the report prepared by Genesis Ventures – “paints a devastating picture of incompetence and arrogance at the bank, showing that executives:

  • Pursued a ‘revenue at all costs’ strategy.
  • Fostered a culture of fear and intimidation.
  • Were ‘actively hostile’ to the idea of compliance with banking rules.
  • Presided over a ‘broken culture’ where problems were ignored or buried.
  • Allowed the business to spin ‘out of control.”

The senior management intentionally understaffed support functions, was hostile to compliance and attacked those who spoke contrary to senior management views. A senior manager threw the risk management report publically saying – “this is a piece of s***” showing utter contempt and disregard for the same.

The summarization of the report states – ‘The senior team portray themselves as all-powerful and all-knowing… and people chose to disagree with them at their own peril. It is a mentality of superiority which, when combined with other deficiencies, stops the team from tackling their blind spots. When those deficiencies are in compliance, this results in serious issues that no one else has the power to address.

The bank’s culture has become completely deviant, and it will be a long road ahead for significant change to occur. The problem is that this issue is prevailing in other banks also. They depict the same culture and attitude. Unless we understand why it is occurring and senior managers take sincere steps, nothing positive will happen.

 2. The Psychological Explanation

Western banks are known for their arrogant and aggressive culture. Some view arrogance as a positive trait and humility as a negative trait, while the opposite is true. Stanley Silverman developed Workplace Arrogance Scale to measure arrogance level in the organizations. He stated the arrogant people demean others to prove superiority and competence. However, as per his results arrogant people showed lower intelligence and self-esteem in comparison to their peers. He identified four red flags to identify arrogant behaviour:

  • Does your boss put his/her personal agenda ahead of the organization’s agenda?
  • Does the boss discredit others’ ideas during meetings and often make them look bad?
  • Does your boss reject constructive feedback?
  • Does the boss exaggerate his/her superiority and make others feel inferior?

If you link back to the damaging report, the senior management at Barclays showed these traits in abundance. Even during the financial crises, the bankers didn’t feel apologetic and showed no humility. Now, being in such senior positions one cannot say they lack intelligence, however, questioning their self-esteem is definitely a valid path.

In another psychological study conducted by Angela Y. Lee, a professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management, it was determined that people with low self-esteem defend the brands more when their favourite brands are attacked. This explains why bankers refused to change and continued their behaviour when under attack during the financial crises.

3. The CEO Message for Culture Change

Deal Book reported that Anthony Jenkins, the CEO of Barclays sent a mail out to the staff with a clear message – “change or leave”. He categorically stated the values – Respect, Integrity, Service, Excellence and Stewardship – to be adopted by Barclays employees. He further added that those who do not change their behavior are free to leave. His words were – “My message to those people is simple: Barclays is not the place for you. The rules have changed. You won’t feel comfortable at Barclays and, to be frank, we won’t feel comfortable with you as colleagues.

He highlighted that in the last two decades financial institutions pursued profits and compromised integrity and reputation of the organization. He said there is no choice between values and profits. Employees must pursue profits while maintaining values. Evaluation of ethical behaviour will be incorporated in performance appraisal process.

That is a very strong message from the CEO of the organization to transform the culture of the organization. Two questions in everyone’s minds are – will they succeed and how long will it take.

Closing thoughts

Bill Gates had famously said – “The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.” Maybe organizations should care about the self-esteem of their employees and their senior management team. Studies have shown that people with higher self-esteem show more ethical behaviour and are less likely to get involved in wrongful acts. The present trend of pursuing material gains at the expense of personal values destroys self-esteem in the long run. Bankers have shown extreme tendencies to flaunt expensive toys to feel good and build a superior image. In all probability, they are caught in a catch-22 situation at a psychological level. It might not be possible to change the culture without addressing the core issues faced by the staff.

References:

  1. Exposed: The regime of fear inside Barclays – and how the boss lied and shredded the evidence
  2. Identifying the arrogant boss
  3. Leave My Brand Alone – Kellogg School of Management
  4. New Barclays Chief Tells Staff to Accept Changes or Leave

 

 

Development of Moral Authority and Responsibility

Mahatma Gandhi epitomizes moral authority in leadership. In every aspect of his life, when he witnessed injustice, he felt morally responsible to correct the situation. His following lines on the seven deadly sins effectively capture the root cause of the ills prevailing in the society in the 21st century

Seven Deadly Sins

“Wealth without work
Pleasure without conscience
Science without humanity
Knowledge without character
Politics without principle
Commerce without morality
Worship without sacrifice
.”

In the business sphere, the issues relating to financial crises, sexual harassment cases, oil spills, nuclear power station disasters, money laundering, bribes and corny capitalism – all arose because of the seven points.

It is not that moral responsibility has disappeared from Indian society. Anna Hazare’s fight against corruption, Arvind Kejriwal’s exposes and the candle light march for the Delhi gang rape victim, all show that leadership based on moral authority flourishes and forms the foundation of humanity.

The challenge is that the percentage of people showing moral responsibility is small. It is disheartening that India, a country thought as the heartland of spiritual awakening world over, is finding a shortfall in moral leadership. The difference between Gandhi and Hitler was only about conscience leadership. They both had vision, passion, communication and people management skills. Now we are seeing more leaders without a conscience.

So what changed over the centuries? If we see, a human body has physical quotient (PQ), intelligence quotient (IQ), emotional quotient (EQ) and spiritual quotient (SQ). In the 20th century, the focus suddenly shifted to IQ and PQ. In the age of industrialization and development, people ignored EQ and SQ.

In the 18th century, most of the literate people would have read their religious text. Though religion does not ensure ethical behaviour, it still lays down some parameters for virtues. In this century, just small percentages of literate people have read religious text and are capable of discussing the finer points. Therefore, the solution is to bring back focus on EQ and SQ. People with higher EQ and SQ are more ethical and morally responsible. Punishing people after they have conducted a crime isn’t the solution; we need to build the character.

The onus of responsibility rests with all the adults in the society. It may sound like a tall order, but there are a few things that each adult can do without much effort. Here are my three suggestions, share with me your ideas on the same.

1.     Use Gamification  

With technology, kids and adults are addicted to playing games on computers. It is unlikely, that kids now will sacrifice their computer to listen to grandma stories of old times. The stories had messages, which taught kids the difference between right and wrong. The schools had moral science classes, doing the same. In the current setup of nuclear families and education system, the kids lack it. Parents therefore can buy computer games dealing with ethical dilemmas, moral lessons and spiritual ideas instead of Angry Birds. It would be a step forward to see kids addicted to such games and not those showing violence and abuse.

Even in the business world, ethics can’t be taught in a day. If gamification is used to issue one ethical dilemma every day which staff participates in, the awareness level of the staff will be much higher.

2.     Take Speaking and Writing Engagements

Indians have vast access to knowledge on spirituality and ethics. The number of Indians speaking and writing about morals, ethics, spirituality etc. needs to increase. We can use blogs to give our messages, write in newspapers and journals, become guest lecturers in schools and colleges and take speaking engagements in business seminars.  The gap in EQ and SQ is huge. We need to build awareness by communicating the stories and building the skills.

Do the same in business environment. Have a business ethics blog on the intranet, make videos on ethical dilemmas and have classroom training on the same.

3.     Build Communities

In US there are huge number of societies and communities focused on addressing various problems. For instance, they have anti-bullying communities that propagate no bullying in schools. However, in India most of the societies are focused on religious aspects or charity. We need to build communities, whose members are brand ambassadors for personal and business morals. As we have seen from the past events, collective strength matters enough to force government and various authorities to take the right steps. We can then ensure better ethical education for the children and young adults.

In business too, it is easier to build an ethical culture when champions are appointed to propagate business ethics. Members of operation teams besides ethics officers are required to enhance the ethical values of the organization.

Closing thoughts

We have a choice, to ignore the ills of the society, complain about them or do our two bits to help improve it. From my experience, it is far more satisfying to contribute positively. Even guest lectures to college students on business ethics sow the seeds for morally conscious business. India has a huge Gen Y, and Gen X has to address this problem. Otherwise we will continue to see the increasing crime rate and see our own children become part of a racket.

 

The Burden of Being a Woman in India

In December 2012, the horrific rape of a 23-year-old paramedical student brought into limelight the insecure lives Indian women lead. Six men in a bus brutally raped her. Her friend who had gone with her to see a movie, tried to stop them but he was beaten by an iron rod. A 17 year old who raped her, inserted a rod inside her and took out her intestines. After the rape, the culprits threw the couple out on the road, naked! No one helped them for two hours. The girl after battling for her life for two weeks, died in a Singapore hospital. She became another woman whose dreams, hopes and life was crushed by the hands of men.

In India, a girl is at risk from the day she is conceived. If she is not aborted, she is considered a liability from her birth. She has to be subservient to all to survive. Her aspirations are sacrificed on the altar of her brother’s rights and privileges. When she gets married, her parents pay a dowry to the groom to keep her. She does not get any rights in her husband’s home also. She can be raped by her husband and she has no legal recourse, as she is duty bound to have sex with her husband. She has to lose her identity to ensure her husband’s success. An Indian women cannot demand equal rights from her father, brother, husband or son. In India, the saying holds true – behind every successful man, there is a woman. But behind every failed woman, there are men.

An Indian man from his cradle is taught that being beastly to women is a sign of masculinity and superiority. The abusive relationships he witnesses between his father and mother, hardwires him for life to treat women as objects and slaves. A teenage boy learns to sexually harass women publicly. Boys start rudely commenting on young girls and women walking on the street. It is called “eve teasing”, supposedly a sign of growing up of a boy. The young girls learn that they can be insulted and humiliated publicly by any random male and no one is going to come to their help. There is no protection available, and she just has to tolerate it.

The apathy in the society is such that no one will come to help a woman even if she is publicly asking for it. The worst part is that other men and women will join them in tormenting the women being abused. You see, the woman asked for it and deserves it. That is how bad the psychology of Indian society is. If a woman manages to break the chains and stands on her own two feet, men and women both will aggressively attack her at a social and psychological level. The women, who are dependent on men to win brownie points from them, will support them and make the woman’s life more miserable.A woman who is being abused by men will be isolated by women and made to suffer more. Women do the dirty work of men, against women. That is the tragedy. India is the fourth unsafe country for women in the world.

A woman has to accept physical, emotional and psychological torture without any hope that it will end. She is at the mercy of men. If rich men are involved, then she does not even have legal resource, as they will bribe the law enforcement staff. On the other hand, the society will support the rich men to get favors from them.

The same situation continues in offices. The sexual harassment faced by women in India is the highest in the world. However, the sexual harassment act is in draft stages for over a decade. No woman has won a sexual harassment case against a powerful man in India. In most cases, when a woman has managed to lodge a legal complain she has been proved to be mentally unsound and/or politically motivated. The sad part is fathers of daughters protect other men than the sexually harassed women to remain part of the men’s club. Then they expect that the other men will not harass their daughters in offices. A twisted thinking that highlights what the daughters were subjected to at home. Moreover, men to show their superiority will mob an aggressive and independent woman in Indian offices. Seniors will either encourage it or turn a blind eye. Very few organizations ensure protection from sexual harassment by seniors.

Closing thoughts

Being beastly and brutal towards women signifies masculine power and superiority in Indian society. Female physical and economic weakness makes her a target for social exploitation. Without women gaining social and financial equality, the plight of women will not cease. They will continue to endure the atrocities meted out to them silently, scared to voice their anger and fight for their rights. In India, the bias is so strong that when a woman fights for her rights, she is called Phollan Devi, and when a man fights for his, he is walking the steps of Mahatma Gandhi. With these judgments, society wishes to silence women forever. Men wish to continue the tyranny of past centuries in the 21st century to safeguard the male order.  That is the real tragedy.

I dedicate this post to the gang-raped girl Jyoti. May the candle lit from her pyre light the life of women in India.

candle light

India Inc. – Say Hello to Corporate Social Responsibility

The Lok Shabha approved the new Companies Bill and now it is pending with Rajya Sabha. After approval, companies will need to implement the new Sec 135 on Corporate Social Responsibility. The section applies to companies having:

a)     A net worth of Rs 500 crore or more, or

b)      A turnover of Rs 1000 crore or more, or

c)      A net profit of Rs 5 crore or more, during the financial year.

The company needs to form a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Committee at board level of three or more directors, of which at least one should be independent. The board has to ensure that the company spends at least 2% of net profits on CSR. The clause specifies the requirement of “comply or explain”. If the company does not adhere to the requirement, it has to explain the reason for doing so.

With the last quarter of the Indian companies, they need to plan the activities for the next financial year. Here are a few of the things that they can do now:

1.     Hire a dedicated team

 Most Indian corporates do CSR activities in an arbitrary manner with responsibility either falling in Communications department or Administration department. CSR is a specialised line that requires people with altruistic temperament well versed with the problems of the society.

2.     Develop a CSR policy

 The organization requires a CSR policy approved by the board along with the budgets. Reports suggest that social responsibility adds to the brand value of the company and improves customer perceptions about the products. In view of this, the CSR policy should be long-term and aligned to the business objectives. For example, financial services sector has high risk of fraud. Hence, it can think of sponsoring fraud prevention and business ethics training, which is in short supply in India.

3.     Identify the right partners

 Corruption has influenced non-profit organizations also. As per media reports, a number of organizations opened prima facie for doing social work are actually acting as fronts to collect illicit money and route it into different areas. Hence, choosing the right partners who are actually committed to doing social good is important.

Closing thoughts

 Besides the external benefits, CSR improves employee engagements. Employees feel good when their companies act in a socially responsible manner. Moreover, with the mad rush to achieve targets this acts as a great stress buster while giving meaning to live. Getting a bigger pay packet can be an objective but never the purpose of life. Hence, this law is a win-win situation for all involved – the customers, employees and public. It is up to us how we leverage it.

2013 – Will Thirteen Prove Lucky?

All my readers – Wish you and your loved ones a happy, prosperous and peaceful new year. I hope that 2013 will prove lucky for all of you.

Big thanks to all of you for your faith and commitment to my blog and making it a success.

Of course, you must be wondering how we did last year. The blog had 99,121 page views. Damn! Missed the six figures by a few hundreds. I missed the target so no bonus for me. I shall not go on a shopping spree today.

Seriously speaking, the reader statistics are amazing. In 2011, the blog had 51,556 page views. In 2012, the number has nearly doubled, as was the case from 2010 to 2011. I wrote 71 new posts in the year, and now there are 242 posts in the archive. Majority of the readers are coming from India, US and UK. What is simply awesome is that during the year, visitors came from 184 countries. Wow, I can’t even list so many countries. It is a time to celebrate! I shall again aim at doubling the numbers in 2013.

Let me share a couple of tips that I learnt during the year with my fellow bloggers. Hope they help you out.

1. Be Original

The most popular posts for 2012 were the ones in which I viewed an old subject from a different lens. Putting different perspective to things, challenging the status quo and discussing new topics makes the posts popular. For instance, the most popular post of the year – “Why auditors fail to detect frauds?” I challenged the basic expectation that auditors are more capable than others to detect frauds. Look at the top five and see for yourself.

a) Why Auditors Fail To Detect Frauds?

b) Adidas India Euro 125 Million Fraud Story

c) Fraud Symptom 12 – Unethical Compromises by External Auditors

d) Highlights of Ernst & Young India Fraud Survey 2012

e) Re-branding Risk Management and Audit Function

2. Write Research Posts

Research posts have a long life as these help readers. For instance, the posts that I wrote in 2010 and 2011 are still getting hits. Here are the top five old posts that were hugely popular in 2012. Write posts that last over a time.

a)    Pre-employment Background Screening Verification Program  July 2010

b)    Impact of Organization Culture on Internal Controls October 2010

c)     Risks of Doing Business in India  September 2011

d)    Mother Teresa – An Inspiration For Social Responsibility  August 2010

e)    Risk Management Strategy of Virgin Group November 2010

I hope you had a good time reading the blog. Your feedback is valuable; please share with me to make this blog better.

I dedicate to all of you Whitney Houston’s “One moment of time” and once again wish you a very happy new year.