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Making women’s stories of workplace discrimination visible

Posted on 16 March 2018
 

Making women’s stories of workplace discrimination visible


WAO’s Invisible Women art exhibition puts a spotlight on pregnancy and motherhood discrimination in the workplace

“I was doing well at the interview but was told by the HR representative at the end that it was the company policy not to hire pregnant women. I was five months along,” writes Shazana, who works in the financial services industry. 

Shazana’s story is one of the many stories of pregnancy and motherhood discrimination showcased at the Invisible Women art exhibition, by Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) and Leo Burnett.

The main exhibit titled ‘Read Between The Lines’ is a massive hanging CV display, which presents stories of gender discrimination in the format of CVs.  The stories were compiled through the microsite, invisiblewomen.com.my. 

“A CV is supposed to show you in your best light. Obviously as a matter of course, we don’t include less triumphant moments,” explains Pia Dhaliwal, copywriter at Leo Burnett.

“The CVs displayed contain work-related experiences that nobody would ever include in their real CVs -- awkward interviews, inappropriate comments, unmistakable cruelty -- yet these stories undoubtedly affected real CVs everywhere.” 

“So we’re turning the CV from a history of work to a history of work harassment. We’re making women’s stories of invisibility visible.”

“Through this exhibition, we hope to create a platform for women to speak up and to know that they are not alone,” says Carol Chin, President of WAO.

“When a chorus of women say, ‘I’ve faced workplace discrimination and this is not okay’, people won’t be able to ignore the issue -- and we will begin to see change.” 

“The goal of the campaign is to advocate for a Gender Equality Act, which would protect women from gender discrimination,” adds Chin. 

Crumpled CVs form the exhibit titled ‘The Ones We Don’t See’, a shadow display of a pregnant woman. 

“Behind every CV or résumé is a real person. Yet it’s easy to forget that when CVs reduce us to a handful of details about ourselves, details that can feel utterly removed from the living, breathing person who carefully crafted them,” says Pia.

“When you discard someone from consideration for a job because they mention a three-year-old child in their cover letter, that’s a real person who’s being denied the opportunity to get their career back on track.” 

The exhibition captures and visualises how pregnant women and mothers often feel invisible at work. One exhibit features mannequins blended into the background of two scenes: an office and a home.

“Both of these scenes are meant to help us get in the mindset of a woman – one who’s unhappy in the workplace due to discrimination, and one who finds herself unable to work, due to taking time off to raise her child and not being given the opportunity to return to the workforce,” says Pia.

Six up-and-coming local artists also contributed artworks -- their interpretations of ‘Invisible Women’ -- to the exhibition. They are Anjali Venugopal, Diane Au, Lizzie Zany, Nadia Nizamudin, Shelly Ng, and Wong Xiang-Yi.

The exhibition runs until this Sunday, 18 March, 10am – 10pm at the White Box, Publika. To learn more about the ‘Invisible Women’ campaign, visit invisiblewomen.com.my. 

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