Our recently conducted Twitter Chat on, “Women safety and its impact on economic progress” was an insightful and constructive dialogue with 3 remarkable champions of women safety and women rights, Elsa Marie D’Silva, Founder and CEO Safecity, Sarika Bhattachharya, CEO, BD Foundation and Prerana, NGO rehabilitating victims of commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Nature of workplace

The conversation began with a broad definition of the workplace to understand women safety in the workplace.

  • The speakers and other participants in the discussion agreed beyond doubt that limiting the idea of a workplace to the four walls of an office cubicle would be unfair.
  • As Elsa Marie tweeted, “Any place visited by an employee in the course of employment including transportation” must be considered as the workplace.
  • The discussion went on to include virtual spaces as workplaces beyond the physical structures.

Workplace safety and women participation in the workforce

The next discourse revolved around the relation between women safety and their joining, retention rates and promotions within the workforce.  Everyone on the chat agreed that a positive correlation existed between the two.

  • The speaker from Prerana tweeted, “Safety for any individual is a fundamental right. If a woman has to constantly worry about getting mauled in public transport, stalked on the streets or harassed at workplace, it is extremely discouraging.”
  • Additionally, the lack of women safety and greater vulnerability to harassment and violence questioned the existence of a level playing field in terms of the workplace. Illustrating the same point,
  • Sarika Bhattachharya quoted, “I personally have seen women dropping out of crucial sales roles, travelling jobs & declining offers as #womensafety was an issue.”
  • Women by law may have equal rights to work, but the fear of discrimination prevents the access of these equal rights.
  • Talking about safety and retention, Elsa Marie tweeted, “Safety impacts women’s willingness to stay on in the workforce. Also, it is an excuse for family/spouse to make her stay indoors/ close to home.”

The question about women safety and their potential to climb up the leadership pipeline also had an unopposed agreement. It was agreed that safety reduces anxiety and improves self-esteem, morale and job satisfaction, which become the basis of promotions, among other factors. A safe workplace unleashes women’s potential to do great things and achieve big. Collating the arguments about women safety and their participation in the workforce, Sarika Bhattacharyya mentioned that it is simple math, Safer workplaces ensure greater joinee rate and lower dropouts, providing a large talent pool for the senior leadership, hence more women climbing the leadership pipeline.

Digital interventions and question of underprivileged women

The final segment of the discussion dealt with the contributions and impact of apps like Safecity in augmenting women safety at the workplace.  It also explored with the challenges faced by women from the underprivileged backgrounds and the victims of commercial sexual exploitation when entering the formal workforce.

  • Explaining the significance of Safecity, Founder and CEO, Elsa Marie tweeted, “The Safecity app, allows you to anonymously document your experience of sexual harassment and abuse. With this data (a collation of stories, you can find trends and patterns) and engage authorities and organizations to take preventive solutions.”
  • Talking about the underprivileged women, the speakers asserted that they face multiple levels of restrictions and their struggles begin at birth in a patriarchy entrenched society.
  • Further, as the speaker from Prerana tweeted, victims of commercial sexual exploitation tend to be the least secure, because they seem to have no rights, let alone the right to be safe.

The final call

This engaging dialogue ended with some relevant insights which talked about removing the unconscious bias and stigma that prevails in our society about women. The need to mentor and create role models to ensure a level playing field for women was also highlighted.  It was concluded that only a collaborative stand that sees women safety as a business case can ensure the safety of women. Invariably, women safety will initiate a cycle of greater participation in the workforce and subsequent greater productivity and economic gains.

#womensafety #womenmatters