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Tracking the companies tackling gender violence

Elli Siapkidou, Director of Research, Equileap

equality for all sign_Credit_Shaun_Dawson

The past 12 months were the year of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, which raised awareness globally about sexual assault and harassment in the workplace, following countless allegations of sexual misconduct from women around the world, including against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Discrimination and gender based violence in the workplace appear to be endemic. We know that only a small proportion of cases are reported and an even smaller proportion of those result in any action being taken. And while these movements are welcome in bringing the issue of sexual violence into the light, more concrete action is necessary to make the workplace a safe environment for both genders.

This year Equileap partnered with the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (the Resource Centre) to investigate cases of sexual harassment and discrimination in the world’s largest companies.

Every year Equileap researches and ranks over 3,000 publicly listed companies, based on a unique methodology (the Equileap Scorecard®) which evaluates workplace gender equality. We use a broad list of 19 criteria which assess gender balance in leadership and in the workforce, equal compensation and work-life balance, policies promoting gender equality in the workplace, transparency and accountability. As part of this methodology, Equileap looks at whether companies have policies in place to make the workplace a safe environment and also, specifically, to prevent sexual harassment. Equileap also monitors class actions, individual cases and official rulings dealing with gender based violence, gender discrimination in the company and in its marketing and advertising, and this is the work that we do in partnership with the Resource Centre.  

It has created the idea of an alarm bell, which can be triggered by a company if any of the following have taken place in the past 2 years.

a: A legal judgement or an official ruling regarding gender discrimination or sexual harassment against the company or an employee, or

b: Two or more legal cases, or one class action that have been settled against a company or an employee regarding gender discrimination or sexual harassment, or

c: Two or more legal judgements or official rulings regarding gender discriminatory practices in a company’s marketing and advertising.

Every year the Resource Centre searches their database for companies that trigger the alarm bell for Equileap. In this year’s Equileap ranking, published on October 4th, two companies in the Top 200 triggered the bell: State Street and PNC Financial Services, both based in the US.

In October 2017, State Street agreed to pay USD5 million to over 300 women over a  lawsuit brought by the US Department of Labour alleging lack of equal pay in senior leadership positions. Two months earlier, the US Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Arbitration Panel found PNC liable for damages after a male employee complained about sexual harassment.[1] However, in the full data sample of a thousand plus companies, eleven companies trigged the Alarm Bell, six based in the UK, three in the US, and one in France and Spain, respectively. If these are the largest companies of the world, it is likely that the environment is significantly worse in medium and small enterprises, where developed monitoring and reporting mechanisms tend to be weaker.

This year 97 out of the Equileap’s Top 200 companies published a policy to combat sexual harassment, less than half, although the figures show that there are significant differences between regions in this, with nearly 60% of companies based in North America having such a policy, while only 28% of those based in Europe had one.

This is an increase from last year when 89 out of the Top 200 had a policy in place. These are the first steps for companies to take in combatting sexual harassment, but there is still a long way to go before we can say that even the world’s largest companies are doing their best to establish a fair environment for all their workers, free from discrimination and gender based violence.