A Good Reason to “Mind the Gap”


A Good Reason to “Mind the Gap”

Illustration: Akshita Monga

“She did the same work as me, it’s not fair that she should get paid less!” a young boy exclaims, in a viral video from earlier this year. The boy was upset because his partner – a girl – had been given fewer candies than him, even though she contributed equally to the task of sorting the balls in a playroom by colour. The injustice is redressed when the boy takes candy from his disproportionately large reward and shares it with the girl, until they both have an equal number. Everyone goes home happy.

Unfortunately, in the grown-up world, addressing the glaring issue of the wage gap between men and women isn’t as simple as just redistributing candy. The wage gap is but one manifestation of a larger system of prevalent gender biases in the professional realm, which pose significant obstacles to women navigating the world of work. But sometimes, change can begin with a conversation. To this end, a panel discussion on #GenderAndTheJob, was held on Sunday June 3, at “Mind the Gap”, a day-long event at We Work, the co-working space in Mumbai’s Bandra-Kurla Complex. The event was organised by Generation Mixx and Dysco.

“Mind the Gap” was the first step in kickstarting a conversation about gender, pay gaps, and barriers to the entry of women, especially in fields associated with art and culture. The panelists came from diverse backgrounds: There was Aahana Kumra, the actress and star of the disruptive film Lipstick Under My Burkha; Karen Dias, a photographer and videographer, and grantee of the International Women’s Media Foundation; social media artist and art advisor Abhinit Khanna; and art writer Skye Arundhati Thomas. Arré deputy editor Karanjeet Kaur chaired the discussion.

“Mind the Gap” was the first step in kickstarting a conversation about gender, pay gaps, and barriers to the entry of women, especially in fields associated with art and culture.

An important question that the discussion aimed to address was that in the amorphous space of creative pursuits, what defines the workplace? Given that most new-age creative work is an individual pursuit, how does gender interact with it all? Does the world of freelancers and contracted professionals have a grievance redressal system for gender-related issues like their corporate counterparts? The observations and anecdotes from the panelists, brought home the daily reality of the gender gap.

Both Thomas and Dias offered their stories of how, as freelance artists, there were cases of industry influencers who expected them to work for free to gain publicity. Dias also shared her experience of putting together the photo-series, “Play Like a Girl”. She worked in Haryana, a patriarchal bastion which is witnessing a soft feminist revolution with girls entering the field of sports in a big way.

The freewheeling discussion encompassed many topics. Kumra was excited about the shifting perceptions of the Hindi film industry. “The good thing that has happened… is that there is a conversation around gender. Women were just made to look pretty and beautiful in most Hindi films all these years, but now there is an Alia or a Kangana who are trying to break the barriers and trying to do female-centric films,” she said.

There was an abundance of food for thought. Clearly, the conversation about gender cannot be contained within the safe confines of a panel discussion, social experiment, or viral video. Yet, for an issue that has remained neglected for a distressingly long period, “Mind the Gap” was a good start.