Monday November 25 marks the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women, which calls upon all of us to end the violence that affects one in every three women globally. In this, there is a particular role for business leaders, who have a unique opportunity to stand up to violence against women in the workplace – by modeling positive behavior; enabling a corporate culture that is gender equitable; creating policies and taking actions to prevent and address gender-based violence in the workplace; and by speaking out against violence against women in their communities.

 One aspect of such action includes the establishment of robust sexual harassment policies that protect victims, prevent retaliation and include strong sanctions for perpetrators. But it is not enough. Companies also need to review their ethics codes and other workplace regulations to ensure zero-tolerance for all forms of violence and discrimination. And they need to implement measures to institutionalize a culture of prevention. These means vocal leadership, institutionalized training, and victim-centered awareness raising campaigns, as well as the use of tools such as climate surveys to detect harassment situations or the establishment of harassment scales to help employees know if they have been subjected to or witnessed workplace violence. 

 Companies also should put in place mechanisms to make it easy and safe for cases to be reported, such as ombudsperson offices and hotlines for anonymous reporting. Companies can also protect women through transportation, security and flexible work/life arrangements to make sure that women are safe on the way to work and the way home. They can even adopt policies to prohibit workplace violence and harassment in their supply chains, making these measures applicable not only to their employees, but also to sellers, vendors, on-site temporary workers, piece-rate workers and even trainees. Steps like these will not only prevent and address violence in the workplace, but benefit companies as well. In some parts of the world, women lose in average 7 workdays for each incident of domestic violence. In addition to the impact on women’s lives, violence against women in the workplace impacts businesses productivity as well as worker engagement and well-being.

Recognizing the vital role businesses and business leaders play in their communities, we are proud to lead UNDPs work around the world with businesses and governments to prevent and address violence against women and girls. With businesses this include a signature product called the Gender Equality Seal, a certification program where companies meet standards of excellency to eliminate gender gaps in the workplace and promote women’s empowerment. The Seal recognizes companies for eliminating gender pay gaps, increasing women’s roles in decision making, implementing work-life balance policies, addressing sexual harassment and sex-based harassment in the workplace and advancing women in non-traditional fields.

Today we call on business leaders to stand up against violence against women and girls, and workplace harassment of all forms by joining the UN Secretary General Unite Campaign #HearMeToo, color the world orange during the 16 days of activism (25 November – 10 December) and lend their voices to call for policies within the workforce and beyond, to end Violence of all sorts. Business leaders who do so will not only comply with all applicable laws and respect human rights, but the will be rewarded with a healthier, more productive and engaged workforce – and as business leaders they will be building a brighter future for generations to come.

by: Randi Davis, Director, Gender Equality, UNDP and Diana Gutierrez, Global Programme Manager, Gender Equality Seal for Private Sector, UNDP