An Open Letter To The BITSian Community

Speak Up
5 min readNov 1, 2020

The Misdirected Outrage

In the first week of September 2020, a few inboxes across BITS campuses lit up as internship interview calls were rolled out by a coveted big tech company. This seemingly innocuous event caused outrage across campuses because the shortlisted womxn received the emails a few days before the men did. What some students suspected was a diversity hiring initiative playing out. How they reacted was with outrage, cyber bullying and public harassment of the selected female candidates. Before long, this morphed into an attack on womxn, their intellect and their worth in a workplace.

Comments/Messages on Social Media

This is an unsurprising reflection of a larger problem — the harsh realities of being a womxn in STEM. We, the undersigned womxn of BITS, stand in solidarity with these womxn and have come together, with our collective experiences, to create a positive change.

Hateful Online Conversations And Its Effects

Multiple comment threads over the next few days observed the dissatisfaction with the hiring process manifesting in the following ways-

  • Trolling, abusing and name calling the womxn who received interview calls, and womxn hired via affirmative action in general
  • Generalizing and derogatory stereotyping
  • Victim blaming and trivializing traumatic social issues like rape
  • Bullying, trolling and insulting male allies for having a holistic view

This behavior is problematic on two fronts.

  • Anything said in BITSian communities, in any platform, is a direct reflection of the institution. Potential peers, recruiters and future bosses are watching. This particular incident has STEM professionals questioning the ‘top talent’ available in our communities. The biggest question in their minds — Would one feel safe working with someone who trivializes another’s issues?
  • The hate was directed towards an entire section of people who had no role in perpetrating this, when the actual vexation was towards companies and their hiring policies. To those at the receiving end, this online outrage felt like nothing but a way of seeking validation of a misogynistic outlook.

Whatever the reasons were, let us be very clear here — there is no space and excuses for harassment. Posts and comments on public forums come with accountability and the same is expected from everyone using these public forums.

Being An Ally

Productive conversation about gender in the workplace is the need of the hour. After many stressful hours of going through triggering content in hundreds of posts and comments, here are some conversations we’ve discovered that are absolutely necessary -

  • Diversity hiring is not just about snatching opportunities from one group of people and handing them over to another. We would be addressing this in our future communications.
  • Casual sexism inside our homes has permeated to our workspaces and in turn, affects decision making in organisations.
  • Microaggressions add up to create a heavy burden on the victims. ‘You are such a girl, man’ and ‘you good looking girls have it easy’ quickly followed by a ‘just kidding’ dilutes the conversation.
  • Dismantling sexist and discriminatory systems includes men’s liberation too. Comments like ‘men don’t cry’, ‘man up’ are a manifestation of this same sexist system. People’s worth is measured by their jobs, the way they look, and so forth, specifically pertaining to their gender.

We are working on some material to help start each of these conversations. We hope it will be constructive across genders.

Message To The Womxn On Campus

To the young womxn reading this — please, celebrate your career successes instead of justifying them. Imposter Syndrome, a feeling that you achieve something because of luck and not because of your talents or skills, affects womxn disproportionately. It is critical to nip this in the bud; please don’t carry forward these feelings of inadequacy that inevitably seem to surface in every womxn’s career.

The reality is that sexism in the workplace takes many forms — whether it is always having to back up your solid work, getting spoken over, being overly mentored, not being sponsored and so on. The good news is that there are strong, enduring BITSian womxn in the workforce to help you navigate through these systemic failures. In this letter, we assert that we stand by you. In the meantime, we ask that you build a strong support system of womxn and allies to navigate through the inevitable negativities. We urge you to share and seek out experiences of your peers, it is invaluable to form a community.

Moving Forward

It is essential to create a safe space for students, faculty and staff across the gender spectrum to allow for progress. To achieve that, we collectively have the following suggestions. We would like to reiterate at this point that these are work in progress and would have to be worked out at length with all key stakeholders.

Administrative reforms:

We feel the introduction of a formal gender sensitisation course would help open up important dialogue on campus. Additionally we also believe that gendered administrative policies (for eg: for hostel violations are regressive) should not be in place.

Student engagement:

All student-led social media accounts must follow a basic code of conduct to moderate activity. We urge allies to wear the role proudly, to take the time to call out trolling. We acknowledge and thank the people already doing this.

In student clubs, departments and other informal groups, a similar modus operandi should be ideally adopted to ensure better gender dynamics.

Alumni support:

We welcome seniors and alumni to take part and engage in the conversation through webinars and talks. We can use existing platforms like LinkedIn as a basis for our own mentorship program to help womxn at all stages in their professional careers.

This letter signals our firm and definitive stance against gender based discrimination, whether on campus or online. There is an urgent need to make changes, and the womxn of BITS look to you for support. We invite everyone reading this letter to feel free to write to us at and come forward with ideas on how we can address these very grave issues. Additionally we intend to put out regular content via this channel and would want to invite collaboration for the same.

Please find the link to endorse the letter here:

List of endorsers (will be periodically updated):

Please note: In this letter we use the word “womxn”, our adoption of this term is to explicitly promote inclusivity of transgender and queer women, and move away from the word’s perceived patriarchal origins. (For more context feel free to refer to: