How to Create a Safer Workplace for Women
Many instances of sexual harassment actually occur because of a lack of understanding of what constitutes inappropriate behaviour
Integrating the PoSH Act with an organization's rules and framework for compliance is only half of the work done to create a safer workplace for women. Taking actions to implement and ensure women safety in the workplace is the actual and effective solution. Providing infrastructural amenities like late night shuttle service, female cab drivers, enhanced surveillance for security are few improvements coming up in the corporate work culture.
However, changing mindsets is the key. Some concrete steps for establishing a safer environment are the following:
1. Create Awareness
Employees, both male and female, should be educated about behavioural ethics and developing the right culture that supports female safety. Women employees have to be constantly trained on the PoSH Act and made aware of its constituents, powers and jurisdictions. This will help them realize if they have been at the receiving end of inappropriate behaviour and get them to raise objections to the appropriate authority. Regular surveys should be conducted in the organization for female employees to provide their feedback on the working environment.
2. Enforce a Zero-tolerance Policy
An organization's reputation improves globally when it implements and enforces strict policies for its employees. It speaks a lot about the organization. A well-defined policy that mentions strong disciplinary action for anyone found guilty should be circulated organization-wide.
3. Promote a Spirit of Entrepreneurship and Openness Among Women
Enforcing policies and educational sessions are beneficial, but, a process or a system that promotes power equality in the organization can be introduced through which the occurrence of negative incidents will be reduced. Assigning dynamic roles and projects to women where they get more responsibility, recognition and power can boost their confidence and status within the organization. Global women leaders around the world can be invited to speak at seminars to motivate women and make them aware of how much they can achieve personally and professionally.
4. Set up a Strong Internal Committee
A credible Internal Committee that investigates thoroughly and recommends strong action should be set up.
The IC should be perceived as fair by both male and female employees and it should also be free of any biases towards gender, seniority of the employee etc.
5. Incorporate Educational Programs for Male Employees
Policies and committees to increase women safety are effective, but absolute safety can be established in an organization only when the root of the problem is fixed. This can be executed by continuous sensitization and training for male employees on how to conduct themselves when working with their female counterparts. A demonstration program will help them understand as to what constitutes as harassment so that there won't be any ambiguity as to what appropriate workplace behaviour is. It should be run half-yearly, quarterly or monthly as per need and demonstrate scenarios where their actions, words and behaviour can be corrected and improved. A list of Dos and Don'ts, program guides and tests should also be made available for all male employees.
Many instances of sexual harassment actually occur because of a lack of understanding of what constitutes inappropriate behaviour. Good training & sensitization programs can significantly help in bringing down instances of sexual harassment.
6. Provide Equipment and Safety Aids for Women
Strict measures can be put in place to prevent any kind of violence or harassment of women. However, it is also recommended that women should be trained to protect themselves when such an incident occurs.
Women have to be trained to immediately escalate any uncomfortable situation that they may find themselves in. Further, provide counselling sessions, life-coaching workshops specially structured for women in the organization's monthly regime. This can provide sensitive women with the confidence to speak up.