Shriya Chowdhury, MSc Management student and Trinity Business School, Trinity College Dublin winner of the CoBS 2020 student CSR article competition, writes a compelling argument for women’s rights and what companies can do to help in the fight against violence to women.
Witnessing a personal incident
It was one fine Saturday evening when a few of my friends had gathered to gossip about random things in our life. Leg pulling and laughter were a significant part of all our gatherings, but this time it was a bit scary. Our laughter was abruptly interrupted by a bang on the door from the apartment above ours. It felt as if someone had been pushed deliberately against it. Then, an eerie silence! Following that, we heard a woman howling and crying. My friends and I stuck our ears to the window to understand what might have happened. This episode shook us up from the inside. We could hear a person in full rage slapping the women left and right continuously while yelling “how dare you look at the other guy?” It didn’t take us long to assess the whole scenario. We rushed to the security guard downstairs to call for help only to get the answer that it was in vain. Since then, he questioned the women although she denied getting hit by anyone. Why? Why on earth would anyone give the control of their life to someone who apparently seemed more powerful? Why could not she speak up or call the police? Why does she need to tolerate and not fight back? All these questions kept circling our minds.
This was one of the many incidents I have witnessed in my life. Ergo, I was drawn towards this idea of how organisations can play an imperative role in reducing domestic violence against women.
Women in 21st Century
This is the 21st century. A time in which men and women work together shoulder to shoulder and marching forward to achieve common goals of growth and prosperity of nations and the organisations they work with. From working in paddy fields to top corporate, women shine in all spheres of life. They are shining with their heads held high on the shoulders. They are homemakers as well as house makers. They can be seen both taking care of their children, helping them in solving mathematics homework problems and also handling client meetings and gathering requirements for billion dollar deals with top notch companies. On the list of CEOs Fortune 500 companies published in 2019, there were 33 women compared to 24 in 2018. Mary Barra of General Motors, Ginni Rometty of IBM, Safra A. Catz of Oracle are to name but a few. They are excelling in every field whether it is civil, aviation, space, farming, teaching and many others. But is this shine hiding a shadow beneath it? Let’s see whether it does or not.
Katherine Anne Porter: “It’s a man’s world, and you men can have it”
This single line tells the whole story. Like an iceberg that has different stories to show above and below the surface of the water, the same situation goes for women too. One side of the coin says that women are rising and other side has totally a different story. They are victims of frequent domestic violence. According to the British Crime Survey (2009) it was found that 7% of women face domestic violence. As claimed by an estimate in United states, there are almost 10 million registered cases of domestic violence. These are the reported ones and millions more are not even registered owing to societal and family pressures. A study by the organisation Making the Links (Women’s Aid, 1995) found that in Ireland, one out of every five women is abused by current or previous partners. And according to the Women’s Aid Impact Report 2018, there were almost 17,000 cases of domestic violence against women across Ireland.
In addition, according to the EU Campaign Against Domestic Violence, 2000 around 25% of all reported violent crime involves men abusing their wives or live-in partners. Indeed, most of the victims of domestic violence are women who are dependent on their male counterpart for their livelihood: dependent women are victim most of the time because they are not the bread earners. And many of them have not received a high-enough level of education to register a complaint or dial a helpline.
Violence being the outbreak of emotions is combined with autocratic and dogmatic behaviour. These can be mitigated up to some level by organisations by implementing strategies and by engaging employees with different real time scenarios.
Measures that can be taken by companies
Companies and organisations can play a crucial role in uplifting women: they can be game changer. Companies can conduct open awareness sessions where they can create a climate of comfort and openness, as we know that domestic violence can negatively affect the self-confidence of individuals. This can be done in group as well as one-to-one sessions. It is obvious that people who experience such kind of violence will face emotional, physical as well as financial issues. These type of traumata can also impact their physical wellbeing, studies showing that abused women are twice as likely to experience physical health conditions such as obesity, hypertension, heart related diseases, depression and many more. They should therefore be counselled with sensitivity, with workshops encouraging individuals to stand up for themselves and have the courage to talk about it in public so that ways can be found to help them legally.
Companies can also conduct workshops to educate the women on domestic violence. Having knowledge will increase awareness of abusive behaviour and the different ways in which this behaviour can manifest in relationships. An abusive relationship is created due to fear, intimidation and inability to express opinions safely. As such, women can be taught to be more empowered in their personal relationships and overcome these fears. The workshops should also coach women about their legal rights and an atmosphere of trust should be built with women employees so that companies provide their backing in cases of violence and full support with the legal aspects.
Most domestic violence takes place because men feel they are more powerful and hence can dominate their female counterparts. A strong way to break this mindset is by providing self defence training to the women. This will not only help women to defend themselves but also give men a clear awareness, perhaps indeed fear, of the equal strength and capacities of women. Ultimately, such training would act as a deterrent. Companies should take a holistic approach and should not only stick to their own employees but should run campaigns for other, non-working women. For example, campaigns and training camps could be run in rural areas where many women do not have access to jobs. This will not only improve the brand image of the organisation but it will help create a safer society where women can raise their voices without fear.
Above all it is necessary to instil in the minds of all individuals a growth mindset where they treat everyone equally whether male or female. As such, sessions should be conducted for all males in which they are educated about the importance of women in their lives and how they should be treated with respect. On a personal level, I have talked to people who are addicted to violence and, from this experience, I believe counselling should be given to those who accept their nature and give them a second chance.
Moreover, I assert that companies should make stringent laws wherein they willingly dismiss any person found to be guilty of engaging in any kind of violence. To avoid taking action against the wrong individual, companies should set up teams to investigate the case so that nobody is punished due to any personal grudge. These are a few activities through which organisation can do their part for a sustainable future and society. Although these would not curb the issue completely, it could be mitigated up to a certain level.
Trust and voice
As a society, we should all be responsible towards everyone’s well-being and should have the courage to raise our voice against any wrong action and seek help. To support this, employees should be allowed to lodge anonymous complaints without any fear of their having to bear uncertain consequence or personal enmity.
Ultimately, employees should have the freedom and trust to raise their voice – and their voice should be heard. All the aforementioned points would not only help create a positive climate in the workplace but it would also help companies as their women employees would be physically and mentally aware and stress-free of their environment.
- Link up with the author Shriya Chowdhury via LinkedIn
- Discover Trinity Business School
- Visit the Trinity MSc in Management page
- Related post: The student winners and finalists of the CoBS 2020 student CSR article competition.
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