Tips for Building A Women-Friendly Startup

Misconduct at work comes in many forms, it could be as vague as time theft to something appalling like sexual harassment. Recent “Me Too movement” has put an emphasis on the widespread occurrence of sexual harassment, including in the workplace. Women are four times more likely to experience sexual assault on the job, no matter what occupation or industry they work in, a survey found. Women make up half of the global labor force, thus creating an equal and safe environment to prevent gender violence should be a prioritized agenda for business leaders. While the particulars on each case differ, one thing we can do for sure is to stand up against it together

When she decided to stand up for others

Andhyta Firselly Utami, the World Bank’s environmental economist from Indonesia, recently shared her story on standing up against intolerancy towards diversity, specifically gender discrimination. She wrote:

“In 2017, there was a visiting entourage from the (Indonesian) ministry who sat-in in an executive class in Harvard. We had a brainstorming session as always, together with students from Boston and other government representatives. I think the topic focused on infrastructure issues.

Things went well until one of my friend (female) asked something—actually a very critical question—but was answered with:

“If you are still unclear, Dek [name] is welcome to continue the discussion with me in my hotel room.” (“Dek” was an informal way to address someone familiar who is younger than you in Indonesian.)

I froze for a second and [was] too late to intervene and push back. Our campus premises were supposed to be a safe space for learning, but instead (though coming from external parties), my friend had to experience *that*. She went from far away to study in one of the world’s best universities just to sit through verbal harassment like that. For a while I felt very bad for failing to do anything.

She went on to tell about how the incident had changed her life and promised herself to always stand up against any form of harassment that happened to anyone.

So, how exactly do you create a safe space for women?

There are many ways to create and promote inclusivity and diversity in the workplace. Understandably, this effort might take time and energy since we talk about managing people from a different background and set of cultures. However, there are a few initial stepping-stones every business needs to pay attention to in building a self-sustaining and flexible safe space for women. Today, we are going to go over those steps.

Read Also: Team-Building Activities for Startups: Why and How

Promote dialogues

Communication is bound to be one of the trickiest things to handle at the workplace. That is why it is important for businesses and startups alike to build trust with their workers. As a leader, let your staff know that you will absolutely be on their side when their rights are threatened. 

A company could start this endeavour by engaging in dialogues. Start by asking questions as simple as, “How are you today?” or a regular questionnaire on “What can we improve to increase employee’s safety?”, and hopefully it will open a meaningful discussion with your women workers about their situation and needs at work.

According to Amy Douglas from Spark Coaching, “Instead of being silent, encourage dialogue about those differences and promote curiosity so that employees know they are valued, and that you expect them to value others no matter how divergent their views.”

Interactive trainings

A study revealed that innovative approaches like workplace civility and bystander intervention training programs are more successful compared to other anti-harassment policies. The reason behind this is because interactive training helps employees learn how to identify, intervene, report and show empathy to victims of assaults. 

Interactive training not only increases awareness on the topic, it also promotes active reactionary attitudes against harassment and encourages bystanders to intervene in an assault even before they happen. The training will also help survivors report and find support after they experience harassment.

Hire and promote more women

It goes without saying that the best success indicator for creating a women-friendly startup is by having more women on board. In a traditionally male-dominated world, these women could offer a wide variety of perspectives, ideas and suggestions on how to improve a workplace. Lean in Report also suggests that more women in leadership roles make sexual harassment less-likely to happen.

Women make up a significant chunk of the global workforce. In general, businesses and startups alike bear equal responsibility for their workers’ physical and mental health. If companies succeed in building a safe space for all, it will encourage a more creative and productive environment at work which is good for business.

Read Also: Top 10 Women in Tech of Southeast Asian Startups