Empowerment is a key feature of modern workplaces all around the globe. Businesses that empower employees and foster a culture of engagement at work enjoy higher retention, increased productivity, and a 21% increase in profitability.
Empowerment in the workplace can keep staff safe, too. Employees who feel supported by their employer are far more likely to raise issues. They also tend to speak up about potential abuse and violence.
This is particularly important today. Data by the International Labour Organization (ILO) shows that 17.9% of women say they have been subjected to some form of psychological violence. Yet, only half of all victims share their experience with someone else. Empowerment can end the vicious cycle of abuse. It can expose organizations that fail to take their commitments to employee well-being seriously.
The Importance of Empowerment
Authentically empowering women to take leadership roles, pursue promotions, and shake up industry standards benefits everyone. Having more women in the business world benefits everyone. Oftentimes, women bring a more comprehensive approach to decision-making thanks to their life experiences and perspectives that men may not have. Many women may also bring their skills in communication, empathy, task management, and organization to their respective companies. This in turn can foster collaboration across departments.
Despite this, women hold only 31% of all leadership positions. This disparity undermines global efforts to end gender-based discrimination. And if left unchecked, supports misogynistic workplace cultures that are fueled by abuse and censorship.
Empowerment can help firms address gender-based disparities in leadership and improve the conditions where women work. The United Nations (UN), echoes this sentiment which states that women’s empowerment encompasses:
- The ability to participate equally in current markets;
- Access to and control over productive resources;
- Access to adequate work;
- Control over one’s own time;
- Increased agency and participation in economic decision-making.
Clearly, women’s empowerment is about more than tokenized participation to fulfill quotas. Closing the gender gap requires an investment in women’s education. It also requires cooperation from progressive organizations that want to end gender-based violence. Organizations must want to benefit from the economic growth inherent in inclusive, equitable economies.
Gender-based empowerment can support women’s safety for decades to come, too. According to the UN report despite recent efforts to close the gender gap, women are far less likely to benefit from social protection. Social protections — like pensions, unemployment benefits, or maternity protection — are essential for the empowerment and safety of women.
Gender Diversity and Violence
All employees deserve to work in an environment where they feel safe, supported, and valued. However, ILO data shows that young women are twice as likely to face sexual violence and harassment at work than young men. Of the women who have faced sexual violence and harassment, three out of five say that have experienced violence multiple times while at work.
All businesses need a robust safeguarding policy in place to end gender-based violence and improve workplace welfare. However, businesses that embrace inclusion can bolster the psychological safety of their employees by improving diversity in the company. Firms that are serious about ending gender violence should start with initiatives like:
- Fund employee resource groups that work together to solve company-wide issues;
- Actively recruit with diversity and inclusion in mind;
- Conducting pay and promotion audits to ensure that women are being treated fairly;
- Revise benefits to ensure that perks like insurance don’t inadvertently reinforce sexism.
Companies that take their commitment to ending gender violence seriously will be able to attract top talent and retain their best employees. Simply put, people want to work in an environment where they feel supported and seen.
Firms that are serious about addressing gender violence should consider reinvesting some of their profits into campaigns to end sexual harassment and gendered violence. Recent movements like #MeToo have garnered international recognition, but efforts to end violence at work require funding and investment. By redistributing some profits to women’s empowerment, employers show that they authentically care about the rights, health, and well-being of women at work.
Mental Health at Work
Misogynistic, violent workplaces are inherently stressful. However, when employees feel disenfranchised, they’re unlikely to speak up about the stress they face or the toxic environment they work in.
Unfortunately, stress can lead to poor communication and increase the risk of accidents at work. Employees who are under intense pressure are unlikely to voice their concerns and may be more prone to mistakes that jeopardize the safety of their peers. This can create a negative loop of high stress, disenfranchisement, and suppression of women’s empowerment in the workplace.
Firms that want to support women’s empowerment and improve worker safety should install risk management systems that protect employees and employers alike. Common risk management systems, like employee training protocols, can help companies spot hazards and gender-based disparities in the workplace, too.
Progressive employers should follow up on risk management systems by offering employee recognition and reward programs. Even simple efforts to recognize staff can go a long way. Gestures like acknowledging an employee’s hard work during team meetings reassures staff their value. This in turn encourages staff to pursue future promotions and pay rises.
The future of work is evolving rapidly. The rise of digital work means that more employees can work from home and overcome the barriers associated with working in a physical location. However, employers must ensure online safety especially of women who work remotely. They must ensure protections from inappropriate online behavior and offer digital support to their employees when they need it.
Women who work remotely can protect themselves online by using a virtual private network (VPN) VPN to encrypt their data and throw off malicious actors. A VPN protects private data, too, as a good VPN hides a user’s IP address and browsing activity.
Workplaces that transition to a remote/hybrid setup should be mindful that women who work from home are still at risk of violence and inappropriate behavior. All employees should know how, exactly, to report misuse/abuse online and should be able to speak up about harassment, stalking, bullying, or inappropriate exchanges.
Women’s empowerment is key to the long-term growth and prosperity of any business. If we encourage women to pursue leadership roles they can shake up industry norms and help usher in a new era of inclusion and equality. Workplaces that champion women’s rights are safer for all, too, as diverse workplaces improve psychological safety and promote the mental well-being of all employees.
About The Author
Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys writing about the ways technology, education, and wellness intersect and impact our everyday lives. She is frequently lost in a good book.
Photo Credit: Unsplash