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Violence against women: a Company-wide issue

  • 03.08.2020

One in three women world-wide is, has been or will be a victim of physical and/or sexual violence in her lifetime, most often at the hands of her spouse or ex-spouse. While such violence has an impact on the personal lives of victims, and on their professional lives too. As businesses are affected, they have a role to play in supporting victims. Learn from Caroline Courtin, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, what measures BNP Paribas has put in place to help.

A company-wide issue

Because they include both victims and perpetrators of violence among their staff, businesses are a pertinent field of action in the fight against domestic violence. The workplace is also an important social sphere in people’s lives, often the most important one beyond the private sphere.

BNP Paribas has been active in the OneInThreeWomen network, since 2019. This first European inter-company network committed to fighting violence against women carried a study in 2019 among six major companies, including BNP Paribas. The "How does Domestic Violence Impact the Workplace?" study reveals that 16% of female and 4% of male respondents, were victims of domestic violence. Another important figure: 55% of these people record a direct impact of such violence on their work, whether in terms of tardiness, absenteeism, reduced productivity or a deterioration in relations with their team and managers.

Portrait

The BNP Paribas "IN My Shoes" intranet series published "How Does Domestic Violence Impact the Workplace" a podcast featuring British academic Jane Pillinger who comments on the impact of such violence in the workplace:  

 "At least one in two victims says that the violence they experience has a significant impact on their working life. By building awareness and ensuring training and support measures for all employees, companies can play an important role in preventing and supporting victims of domestic violence," says Caroline Courtin, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at BNP Paribas.  

What can be done? Examples from BNP Paribas and its partners

BNP Paribas is committed to fighting violence against women and has dedicated resources to ensure action is taken. For example, A Social Action Unit including around 40 social workers provides employees with support on professional and personal issues. For over 15 years this unit has been producing internal and external information and awareness campaigns, workshops, and providing links to specialised associations and professional guidance and support. These initiatives to protect victims of domestic violence, most often women, enable victims to break the silence and find adequate support.


 Certain abusive relationships make it impossible to extract victims quickly from the dire situations they are in. In such circumstances the Group can, however, provide urgent assistance by issuing  salary advances or providing emergency shelter. Furthermore, the Group aims to help victims in the medium and long term, by enabling them to keep their jobs and the economic stability their jobs provide.

"Maintaining employment is an absolute priority for BNP Paribas, which can notably offer geographic mobility options to a victim if necessary," explains Caroline Courtin. It should not be forgotten that domestic violence – because it socially isolates victims and has a direct impact on their work – is a real obstacle to professional equality between women and men.


Maintaining employment is an absolute priority for BNP Paribas, which can notably offer geographic mobility options to a victim if necessary

A collective struggle

BNP Paribas does not act alone in its efforts to fight domestic violence. The Group's teams put victims in contact with relevant authorities or organisations. While managers have an important role to play, as they are often the first to detect changes in behavior, they are trained to detect warning signs and to show kindness and understanding. Their role is also to listen, to reassure and to raise awareness.

Any initiative taken is with a collective approach. "The fight against conjugal violence is one that can be held at all levels of society: police, doctors, businesses, associations, schools, lawyers and psychologist. We are all concerned, and can all take action,” concludes Caroline Courtin.

Focus on initiatives taken during the Covid-19 quarantine 

The quarantine related to Covid-19 has been particularly critical for victims of domestic violence. In France, the national helpline for women victims of violence, 3919, received almost twice as many calls in April 2020 as the previous year. BNP Paribas was quick to ensure safety measures were in place:    

-        An internal awareness campaign targeting all employees in France was launched on the Group intranet in March.

-        Access to "Stimulus Care", our help-line, was extended to all Group employees in France.

-        "Violence is Not Forever", an external media campaign and call for donations that also promoted the 3919 help-line, was launched with the OneInThreeWomen network. It was broadcast through 140 radio commercials and posted in the Paris Metro on 20 May, 2020. The campaign also donated €200,000 to several organisations that provide care to victims of domestic violence.

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