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Gender Neutrality is as much about men as women – An interview

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First published on Good Reads

So, when I read the book named “We-Men@Work”, I was very surprised to know how an author can write about the two genders and about the neutrality that is supposed to be there between them without demeaning any of them. Sachita Ganguly, the author of this book, had conveyed her message very well through her debut book itself which made me think of interviewing her which you can enjoy below…

Hi Sanchita, tell us something about your first book- We-Men@Work.

Hey Abhilash! We-Men@Work is a non-fiction book that is intended to act as a conversation trigger around Gender Neutrality at work places. It travels through my experiences of around fifteen years in agencies and corporate offices to curate instances that look harmless when looked at individually but tell a different story when put together. Though the examples given in the book are of Indian workplaces, the implications are true irrespective of any geography.

The topic is extremely close to my heart and my perspective on it has changed as I have grown in the system. Today I firmly believe that a “with” approach will usher in an era of equal opportunities faster than a “vs”. Although for that to happen we need many open and honest conversations around it and this book is one such catalyst.

Gender Neutrality is as much about men as about women. Biologically the two genders are different, not better or worse, just different – and accepting that makes the race to “Equality” futile. Thus “Neutrality” is the language correction required in our vocab to re-align our actions in the right direction I feel.

Since how long did you want to write books or it is just that the topic discussed in this book made you write your first book?

I do not think I have ever thought of writing a book as an adult and I have definitely never thought of writing a non-fiction book. I actually started off by writing the “About this page” for FB, three years back. I had intended to start a forum on the topic back then on Face Book. I was and am extremely passionate about the topic and just wanted to bring it out in open to discuss and learn together. The “About” section kept running into pages and at the same time many colleagues opined that no one would want to talk about these things openly. That’s when I decided to pivot the conversation on a book instead. With a two years old kid (then, now five years) and couple of job switches it took me three years to finally complete the book and launch it.

I just want to play my part in ensuring freedom of choice (for all genders) to usher in a thriving working environment for all the genders without threatening each other’s progress. Deep seated biases shouldn’t guide our actions and detrimental shortcuts, that undermines merit, shouldn’t lure us. This desire was enough to drive me to pen this book

How did you research for this book as it talks about many concerns when it comes to Gender Neutrality?
To be extremely honest, there was no active research involved. I love to read and a lot of facts and theories that you read somewhere remain with you since they touch you somewhere deeper, so such facts have been reproduced in the book. But more importantly all the instances discussed in it are first hand and fourteen years plus is a long- long time to face gender related concerns in person if you are a working woman. Besides going through life-phases like marriage and maternity, gave dimensions to my experiences of gender issues at workplaces.

So most of the content of the book is pure experience and the inferences are mine which I believe were easy to derive given that the topic is so close to my heart.

How did you ensure that you don’t end up demeaning men while talking about uplifting women in society? How difficult it was?

It wasn’t difficult at all. I believe language is an extremely powerful tool. It plays a critical role in expressing our intent, which in turn drives all the action. I firmly believe that Neutrality is the answer to expedite a word of equal opportunities (which BTW the World Economic Forum has predicted will take another 208 years for USA).

It was very obvious to me that in the universe of workforce, where majority is of men, one cannot ignore them. We need to look at things from their perspective as well since the context of society has changed for both men and women. More importantly being an optimist, I am almost always sure that everyone wants a better life quality so the question to be answered was “how”.

Lastly, my experience tells me that gender biases are gender un-biased so irrespective of we being men or women or any other gender, need to fight those deep seated biases is common. The fact is everyone can prosper together. Unlike the law of energy, good quality of work life is not an either-or game. This belief gives a lot of freedom to act in the right direction.

How did such unique title come to your mind for this book?
Like I said, I love to read. I believe my thoughts have been shaped by the various books I have read from my childhood. The passion to read gave birth to my extreme love for word-play. I love to dissect words and make up stories about how they would have been derived from the sub-words. I know it sounds crazy but I look for stories everywhere.

We-Men@Work name came to my mind three years back, long before the first chapter was written. It was supposed to be the name of my FB forum. I always found “Women” an intriguing word since it includes “men” in it. So what better to pitch an inclusive plan of action that this word itself with minor tweaks that brings out the message loud and clear!

What was your state of mind when the Me Too movement was on its high in our country considering it speaks about men-women relationship in our corporate structure?

Sexual abuses are more common than they are talked about. Right from home to crowded stations, it is a disgusting reality we are living with. The corporate structure is not an exception. The fact that POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) was introduced in 2013 (way before Me Too movement) acknowledges this reality. The policy became gender neutral recently though.

So Me Too did not shock me at all. I have been witness to few POSH cases and I know how it can be played both ways. It did frustrate me though. In the more controlled environment of office, it becomes a power game along with a gender game. Someone at a higher hierarchy generally dares to abuse people with an assumed confidence of the victim not reporting it or worse he/she will not face any consequences even if the act is reported.

It is disgusting and it is all around us. Like any other crime, I do not see even this getting eliminated but the perspective of looking at victims in this crime is convoluted. So if by policies, social media support and lifting taboos from subjects that are anyway known to everyone there is hope to make it as shameful a crime as any other for the perpetrator ( and not the victim)

How was your experience in searching the publisher for your book after completing your book?

Once I finished the book and started to figure out things I felt like writing the book was the easier part. It was in my control. I had no clue that there is a full-fledged industry out there related to book publishing. There is editing, book designing, cover designing and tons of other things involved. I was lucky that a dear friend offered to design the book for me so I did not have to explore much on that bit.

Coming to publishers, I had sent the first draft to few publishers early last year but did not hear back from them. Patience is one virtue that I lack. Once the book was completed (editing, design), I reasoned that the topic is non-fiction and controversial , additionally it was my debut work and my designation still doesn’t fall in the CXO category so I skipped approaching publishers and decided to self-publish. Reading that publishers did not take up “Immortals of Meluha” and Amish had to self-publish initially further convinced me to go for self-publishing rather than trying again. I was in a hurry to bring the topic out. I chose to self-publish on Notion Press (hard copy) and Amazon (E-copy). I have not taken any additional packages so far so publishing was zero cost for me.

Even through existing self-publishing platform one hardly earns anything but Amazon can change this game like they did for e-books. I am really happy with Amazon KDP and I wish they soon extend their services for hard copy books. That will make life a lot easier for new writers like me.

What would you like to tell your readers why should they pick this book of yours?

If someone is planning to enter the professional world or are in the professional world (at any level) , this book is for them. Secondly it is for all the parents who are crafting the society of tomorrow because like everything else practicing gender neutrality starts from home.

This book will take 4-5 hrs of your time but what I can promise them is that it will definitely open up avenues for them to talk about or act so that they can be the catalyst in turning the workplace into an equal opportunities playfield. Practicing mindful behaviour is easy, if only one knows what can hurt whom.
As parents don’t we try our best to ensure a better quality of living for our next generation then why not extrapolate that mentality at workplaces?

They might agree or disagree with me but that will trigger conversations. I believe change will be brought in one conversation at a time, one instance at a time and we all need to work together for the same

What is the next book that you are writing upon? Can we get a sneak peek on the same?

It’s just been a little more than a month that We-Men@Work is released so currently I want to focus on this book and more importantly on the cause. I am writing articles on the topic at various digital platforms, speaking to colleges to arrange for a talk to sensitize young minds on Gender Neutrality and running the LinkedIn forum on the topic https://lnkd.in/fNcpZvS to spread the word and trigger as many conversations as possible.

Having said that, I had a fiction book in mind next when I was approaching the end of authoring this book. I wanted to write short stories of few women loosely based on people I know and their experiences. But once We-Men@Work was released, I got messages from a lot of people expressing that though the instances in the book are all personal, they would love a sequel where the span of book spreads wider and covers multiple related experiences of other people. So frankly I am undecided yet about my next book.

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We-Men@Work – Review by Writing Buddha
Sanchita Ganguly

Sanchita has around 15 years of experience as a marketing professional across leading brands like Asian Paints & UltraTech Cement. She is an active advocate of Gender Neutrality & is passionate to expedite the same at Indian work places.

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