What should employers do to help women feel safe in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder?
Having a conversation that stems from a brutal murder and the impact that it is having on our society, is a very difficult thing to do. It is much bigger than an employment issue. But as a response to our members who are asking us for advice, we have decided to create a simple resource that might help organisations navigate the conversation with respect, sensitivity, and practical outcomes to the benefit of everyone. This is not about just Sarah Everard, it is about all women – all the women in your workforce, all the women in your lives.
Here are some inclusion actions that we believe employers need to consider and take action on:
Use trigger warnings before starting the conversation
There will be people in your team who have had experiences of violence, threat and harassment (at home, on the street, anywhere). Take care not to trigger historical, or possibly current, events for them.
This is not a conversation about well-lit car parks
These facility issues should be in place already for all your staff. Ensure all premises and working arrangements are as safe as possible. A conversation that is just about well-lit car parks, for example, is avoiding the real issues.
Check in with your women’s networks/women colleagues about how they are feeling…
… Is there anything that they would reasonably like to see happening in the organisation? Setting up a listening circle is one approach that we know employers are putting in place already this week.
Recognise the terrible truth that violence against Black, Brown, ethnic minority women and trans women does not get the media coverage that we are seeing currently
Think about what this says about society? The world does not feel a particularly safe place currently for minority groups… how will this truth be impacting your colleagues?
The “#notallmen” is not helpful
We know that the dangerous people are a tiny minority. We all know, love and work with amazing men. But if someone’s immediate response is “it’s not me”, they are not understanding the problem. They are not under attack. To use an analogy from social media, if you are swimming in an ocean with 100 species of sharks and only one of them is deadly (but you can’t identify which one), you will naturally protect yourself against/fear all of them.
Parents/guardians, uncles, aunts…What are we saying to our boys about how they can ally?
It can be as simple as crossing the street to avoid a lone woman hearing footsteps behind her.
Male allies are essential…
This cannot be a conversation just amongst women. Encourage men to:
- Be role models in your organisation to speak and/or blog about these issues.
- Always challenge misogynistic comments or actions. If they are not challenged, such comments are normalised and rationalised.
- Ask women friends or colleagues what you can do.
Why are dads so protective of their daughters?
Think and talk about why this is and think about how dads can act to change the environment, not respond to it.
There has to be a call for action to men
Women are talking openly about all the things they do to keep safe. For example, changing into trainers so they can run if they need to, being on the phone, or even appearing to be on the phone to indicate that a third party will know if anything happens. But do the men in our lives even know this? Women do these things so frequently, they haven’t even spoken about them.
The call to action for action for men is to learn about what their partners, mothers, sisters, daughters do automatically to protect themselves when they are out of their homes and alone. Encourage male colleagues to ask the women in their lives how they feel about their own safety, and how society might need to change to be safer for women outside of their homes.
We need to change the narrative on this
This isn’t about what women can do to be safe, they have been doing it and as recent events have shown it doesn’t stop bad things from happening. From an employers’ perspective, this awareness raising and these essential conversations are all about understanding difference and creating inclusive environments. Environments where everyone can just be themselves, with psychological safety, with physical safety.
Please get in touch via [email protected] if we can support you with these conversations in your workplace.