The year 2017 was a watershed moment in history regarding awareness on the social issues faced by women. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements raised the profile of workplace-based violence and discrimination experienced by women as millions shared their experiences via social media. Worldwide, women and men joined social campaigns and marches calling for change.
As we commemorate International Women’s Day this year, under the theme “Press for Progress“, we look at how grave the problem is and why the private sector should get involved in stopping gender-based violence (GBV) and gender-based discrimination at work.
The figures on discrimination and sexual harassment
Only 50% of women of working age are engaged in the labour force, compared to three-quarters of men, and women earn 77% of men’s salaries (ilo.org). Shockingly, more than a third of the world’s countries do not have any laws explicitly prohibiting sexual harassment at work (worldpolicycenter.org). Additionally, the World Health Organization has reported that globally, 35% of women over the age of 15 have experienced sexual or physical violence in homes, communities or workplaces.
On their website, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) share disturbing global statistics on the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in workplaces. Just from Africa, they list the following:
- 90% of women from Uganda (surveyed from over 2 900 organisations) reported being sexually harassed by senior male colleagues. Source: ILO Bureau for Workers’ Activities (ACTRAV)
- 90% of surveyed workers in the Kenyan tea growing and processing sector reported experiencing or observing sexual abuse at their workplace. Source: Solidarity Center
- 81% and 63% of women from Zambia and Lesotho respectively had experienced sexual harassment at work. Source: SADC Gender Protocol Barometer (2014)
Why is it important to get involved?
The ITUC say, “there can be “no decent work with violence at work”. They have mounted a campaign to build support for the adoption of an International Labour Organization instrument on “Violence and Harassment against Women and Men in the World of Work”, which includes gender-based violence. GBV is rooted in gender-based inequalities and harmful social norms. Experiencing GBV hinders women from fully participating in the labour market and in economic and political spheres. There is also the intersection between inequalities, GBV and the spread of HIV.
The private sector: a key partner for gender equality in the 2030 Agenda
At the end of February this year, business leaders, trade unionists, civil society and government representatives collectively weighed in on the subject at the “4th Global Forum Business for Gender Equality: The future of work in the 2030 Agenda” held in Santiago, Chile. They pledged to change working conditions for men and women in order to promote equality and inclusion, and to share their experiences with other companies and actors working for gender equality. This was at the urging of representatives from the United Nations Development Programme and UN Women who advised them to, “capitalize on the momentum of recent activism by and on behalf of women and ensure that businesses understand that equality is good for the bottom line”.
How is gender equality good for the bottom line?
Apart from being a basic human right, gender equality is a cross-cutting theme without which the aims of Agenda 2030 will not be realised. Gender equality is also critical to business performance and sustainable economic growth.
- It transforms businesses, economies and societies. If women and men participated equally in the labour market, the world economy could gain 28 trillion by 2025 (Mckinsey.com).
- It provides opportunities for businesses. For example, inclusive workplaces help to identify new markets and investors. Increasingly investors are looking at the gender equality performance of companies as an indicator of potential growth (weps-gapanalysis.org). The IMF has said that gender inequality decreases the variety of goods countries produce and export – especially low-income and developing countries (imf.org).
- Supporting women’s health (in particular sexual reproductive health) can lead to; healthier more productive employees, savings in healthcare costs over the long term, and increased morale in the workplace.
Source Copyright © International Labour Organization 2018
How we work with gender
The Swedish Workplace HIV and AIDS Programme (SWHAP) works with its partners to promote gender-sensitive workplaces. Through steering committees and peer educator teams who implement programmes companies:
- mainstream gender into HIV and wellness policies and ensure that gender issues are considered and applied in all business decisions, management, operations, and sustainability strategies.
- raise awareness and implement policies on sexual harassment in the workplace.
- raise awareness on GBV and the sexual and reproductive health rights of all groups in workplaces and communities.
- promote understanding of the gender-differentiated vulnerabilities and risks to HIV and other health conditions and design appropriate interventions.
- hold internal and community gender dialogues where women and men can challenge gender bias and inequality.
Tetra Pak has been driving wellness which looks at the wellness of employees in totality, for example, the physical, financial and emotional. Working together with SWHAP, we have embraced the area of gender mainstreaming and in our recruitment process, we keenly advocate for female candidates to apply for traditionally “male” oriented jobs.
Last year through a global Tetra Pak initiative we recruited a female Field Service Engineer. This brought a different mind shift to the rest of the employees especially the engineers. It also empowered the other ladies in the company as it has broken the traditional belief that it’s almost impossible to get female engineers. There is also a lot of respect that is given to this Field Service Engineer by the rest of the employees. – Judy Ndegwa, Tetra Pak Kenya
Read more on how we addressed gender last year on pages 16-17 of our Annual Report
Press for progress and support the ITUC’s “23 Days of Action” campaign that is building support for the adoption of an International Labour Organizations Convention to stop gender-based violence at work.
The Women’s Empowerment Principles Gender Gap Analysis Tool (WEPs Tool) – a business-driven tool designed to help companies from around the world assess gender equality performance across the workplace, marketplace, and community.
The Gender Equality Seal programme supported by the United Nations Development Programme which certifies public and private organisations efforts to eliminate gender gaps in the workplace.