Nykaa, the popular online beauty product and cosmetics retailer, has found itself facing social media backlash. It has come under fire for reports by employees of toxic work culture, constant employee bullying and verbal harassment from one of its Chief Experience Officers (CXO).
Diet Sabya, an Instagram page famous for its exposés on Bollywood and the fashion industry, has shared a series of accusations against the woman, citing unnamed sources. This doesn’t seem to be an isolated incident, with several people in the comments section and reviews on Glassdoor confirming the claims.
Nykaa’s CXO Is Being Been Called Out For Problematic Comments And Behaviour
The Nykaa CXO has been accused of making rape jokes, shaming people for their economic status, food and body shaming employees, and being dismissive of mental health and learning disabilities, amongst other toxic comments and unsympathetic behaviours.
The source alleges that when an employee’s parent was on a ventilator in the hospital, she told the employee “you can work from the hospital, get with it”. An employee who had just had a miscarriage was told “it’s god’s way of weaning out the weak”.
The accusations also recount an instance when the company did a brand video featuring an acid attack victim, and the CXO dismissed the woman, as she had done facial reconstruction surgery and “doesn’t look like a victim, won’t get us sympathy”.
Other women were deemed too dark, ugly, fat, or having too many skin problems, when casting for “inclusive” shoots.
Several Glassdoor reviews for Nykaa have alluded to similar complaints of a problematic work culture right from the top, and toxic leadership.
Nykaa has responded to Diet Sabya’s post on Instagram saying ““We have a zero-tolerance policy against any racism, body shaming or any comments that cause humiliation or offence. Nykaa has an internal redressal mechanism to address such cases. Please ask your source to contact us at [email protected] and we will take the necessary action in this regard. We wish to clarify that till date we have not received any complaints with any of the details mentioned in the post.” However, its being claimed that this email id for employee grievance redressal did not exist before now, and has been created only once the issue was brought to light.
The Beauty Industry May Be A Space That Conventionally Caters To Women, But Is Filled With Internalised Patriarchy
The foundations of the beauty industry, isolated from gendered ideas, are not problematic. It indulges in aesthetics, the idea of taking care of oneself, and artistic expression.
However, patriarchal attitudes and internalised misogyny have led to the industry being demeaned by those outside it, and made toxic by those inside it.
Patriarchal ideas of masculinity in India have ensured that it’s an industry that continues to largely target only women. Simultaneously, it ensures that these women are only exposed to normative, conventional, and patriarchal ideas of beauty and belonging.
It’s upsetting, but unsurprising then, to see this toxic, inherently unsympathetic and sexist behaviour coming from positions of power in what has widely been deemed the pioneer of beauty e-commerce in India.
Leadership Isn’t Gendered
The lockdown has seen some inspired examples of leadership. The internet was flooded, at one point, with articles of women leaders doing an incredible job in battling the COVID-19 outbreak, with many stating that female leaders are “better at fighting the pandemic”.
The successful leadership, however, in all cases, stemmed from an empathy, forethought, and commitment to taking diverse perspectives into consideration. None of these are gendered traits, but basic characteristics of what makes a good leader.
The alleged toxic leadership displayed by the female Nykaa CXO is not behaviour that anyone, let alone a person in a position of power, can engage in. It is inexcusable, must be called out, and acted on by the company.
Good or bad leadership is not guided by gender, but the conditioning that goes into shaping the person in the leadership role, might be.
This isn’t a contest of which gender is a “better leader”, but an opportunity to highlight the need for leaders that strive to create a safe space for their employees – especially those who have been historically marginalised in the workforce.
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