Cofounder of Women in Cloud. I influence brands and entrepreneurs to build thriving ecosystems through digital strategy and partnerships.
No one should feel unsafe in the workplace. That’s why it’s so important for modern businesses to acknowledge the unique challenges women face in male-dominated offices and toxic workplace cultures. Without taking clear steps toward protecting women, nothing will change, and businesses will continue to incur a massive opportunity cost as they attract fewer talented women and enable unproductive and unsafe environments for existing employees.
So, how can companies increase safety for their female employees? In this article, we’re going to explore how a corporate accountability movement can be part of the answer.
The Right ESG Strategy Can Help
ESG (environmental, social, governance) is a set of standards that businesses adopt to ensure their practices have a positive effect on their employees, society and the world. The key to ESG is accountability—all businesses must report to what extent they did or didn’t meet their goals. That means a business’s workforce, stakeholders and consumers can celebrate their victories and hold them accountable when change is needed.
And what change is more urgently needed than protecting employees from physical and psychological harassment? This concern is included within diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI), which is the top ESG concern for executives, according to a Deloitte survey.
In other words, a strong, well-defined digital ESG strategy can increase the safety of women in the workplace and signal to the workforce and world that a business is taking matters seriously.
This Is How Businesses Keep Women SAFE
Every business will have different ESG concerns and different ways of conceptualizing and measuring them. But what needs to change is true across the board—from closing the pay gap and emphasizing female career progression to establishing transparent sexual harassment policies and incentivizing civility and equity training. I recommend following a digital ESG framework called “SAFE”:
Research continues to show 1 in 2 working women face some form of harassment. Listing company values on a website just isn’t enough. If companies aren’t achieving full top-down adoption of gender-equal policies, then the modern workforce will reject them. That’s where the “s” in “SAFE” comes in; it stands for security, the top priority of all leaders. Identify security policies to support women.
The first step to creating a safe workplace for women is acknowledging that there’s a problem. This self-awareness is essential for businesses. Band-Aids aren’t enough; business leaders should spend a considerable amount of time learning, listening and discussing what needs to change with the people who understand it firsthand. Invite a DEI consultant to assess safety-related challenges women face to understand the depth of the challenges.
Once a clear and rigorous diagnosis is made, a plan must be put into action. This won’t always be easy, but leaning into the self-report and accountability characteristic of ESG is a great way to prove that the problem is being taken seriously. Determine what metrics belong on the ESG scorecard along with the exact problem they solve and how that will increase the physical and mental safety of women.
There’s no alternative to putting women in leadership positions. To change company culture and promote equality for women on every rung of the ladder, it’s essential to have women in managerial and policy-making roles. It isn’t enough to clear the way; women should be empowered to move up the career ladder.
The Key To A Stronger & Diverse Workforce
There’s nothing simple about ESG, but complexity is nothing new for business-savvy leaders. When you have a big problem, you need a big solution. Making your workplace SAFE is must-have ESG strategy.
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