Article provided by Shriya Chowdhury is a MSc Management student and Trinity Business School, Trinity College Dublin.
The outbreak of COVID-19 triggered the graph of domestic violence to rise steeply.
While the world was trying to flatten the curve to limit the spread of the deadly disease by staying at home, many women suffered tremendously at the hands of domestic violence.
Yes! You read it right! It was reported that Ireland experienced a 25 per cent increase in domestic violence while the country was in lockdown. The UK has a scarier story, the number of victims facing domestic violence has almost doubled during the lockdown period. A similar trend has been found in other parts of the world.
When the companies struggled to increase the productivity of their employees who were working from home, no heed was paid to the women employees who were silently suffering. While there are limitless debates on the gender pay gap and gender inequality in organisations, there is a scanty discussion on a critical and yet significant issue of domestic violence.
In 2019, Forbes reported that companies in the UK lose a whopping 316 million pounds annually on account of domestic violence. Such violence impacts the female workforce who are mentally harassed and physically abused which subsequently impacts their work.
For the health of the organisation and for the greater good of the society, I would like to put forward some measures which companies can undertake to reduce this issue which is detrimental for the company itself and the society. After all, organisations bring economic stability to the country, and then why not stand for the women of the country.
Organisations can create awareness amongst their employees by conducting sessions on domestic violence. Such sessions will create a climate of comfort and openness. This will boost the confidence of the victims to bring up and discuss the issues they are facing, so that they can be helped legally. Having knowledge about domestic violence will increase awareness of abusive behaviors and how to handle such situations. An abusive relationship is created due to fear, intimidation and inability to express opinions freely. Educating women will make them feel more empowered in their relationship which will help them overcome these fears. Also, when working from home women should be taught to communicate their issues through distress signals which they can reliably and confidently inform their team members on calls without being vocal. Immediate actions should be taken on receiving any signals.
Men should also be encouraged to participate in sessions where it should be instilled in their minds about the importance of women in their lives and should be treated with equal respect. Building a growth mindset will address the issue at the root level.
Studies have shown that women who face domestic violence are twice as likely to face physical health problems. Counselling can be done in group as well as one-to-one sessions considering the fact that people who experience such kind of violence will face emotional, physical distress. Women can be coached on their legal rights and the companies should support them legally as well as finally when needed.
Women are subjected to domestic violence more because men feel they are physically more powerful and can dominate their female counterparts. Defence trainings should be made mandatory for all women who have the capacity to get trained. This will help women to defend themselves when they are physically abused. This will also create awareness; perhaps fear in men, that they would need to fight an equal strength.
Complaint cell and policies
Organisations should implement policies where any women can raise their concerns without fear of victimization, subsequent discrimination or disadvantage. The complaints should be addressed at a high level .However; such cases should be investigated separately so that no action is taken against any wrong individual on account of any personal grudge. Accordingly a legal case can be registered by the companies on behalf of their female employees. On the other hand, companies should make the policies stringent wherein they are willing to dismiss a person at any level who is engaged in violence. This will create an ambience where employees have the freedom to voice their concerns and made sure that their concerns are heard. Also, females are more comfortable in sharing their issues with their colleagues rather than superiors. Ergo, the peers on behalf of the intimated victim should raise the issues to the authorised team in a responsible and accountable manner.
Domestic violence has devastating consequences and it not only affects the individual but also the wider society. Hence corporates should take initiatives to run campaigns in rural areas about domestic violence where women are underprivileged. This will not only spread awareness to a larger community but will enhance the brand and reputation of the particular organisation. Further, employees will be more committed towards the organisation which tries to make a difference in the society by uplifting women.
Provide housing facility and make women economically independent
It has been found that many women forcefully stay in a destructive relationship in the fear of being homeless. Corporates should provide housing facility at a reasonable price to the victims so that they have the courage to leave their partners. Companies can play a wider role by raising the minimum wage for women and guaranteed paid leaves. Surveys conducted have found that domestic violence is more widespread in developing countries where women are financially dependent on their spouse. Each organisation in its own capacity can partner with NGOs to provide shelter for women who are not employees. This partnership apart from providing enough funds to the NGOs would provide for the security of women when they are helpless.
The aforementioned steps would not curb the issue completely but it would definitely mitigate it to some level. And we never know with the collaboration of the organisations, there might be a day when domestic violence against women can be completely eradicated from the society by injecting a vaccine namely “Respect and Power for Women”.