The German professional association for specialists and executives, DFK (Die Führungskräfte), is pleading for a stronger sensitization and precautionary measures in workplaces, as well as a zero-tolerance policy for any sexism.
Michael Krekels, CEO of the DFK, says: "Behaving decently towards colleagues in the company still does not seem to be self-evident for everyone. In fact, there should be a basic consensus that you do not discriminate against anyone because of your gender and that nobody is exposed to sexual harassment in your working life. As long as this has yet to be internalized by the populous, we need to make it a clear message in the workplace: discrimination and sexism, in whatever form, will not be tolerated. Violations will be punished. And corporate management must declare this as a zero-tolerance policy so clearly."
For the DFK, it does not matter in what manifest sexism occurs: "It is clear to us that all forms of sexism, sexual harassment, sexual violence, physical, verbal and non-verbal harassment, and attacks must be branded. Even the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG) prohibits any of these forms, especially in a professional context," adds Krekels.
Incidentally, every employer is legally required to protect his employees from sexual harassment. In particular, employers must set up a contact point to which affected persons can turn (§13AGG). But Michael Krekels recommends companies to start earlier.
"Zero tolerance for sexism must be part of the corporate culture. For this, the workforce must be made aware of the issue," Krekels asserts. "Appropriate training should be provided and reinforced. Executives need to know when and how to intervene in sexual harassment in order to nip them in the bud. We also think it makes sense to include a relevant clause or attachment in any employment contract."
Obviously, sexual harassment is unacceptable in and of itself - but what companies would do well to realize is that the effects are more far-reaching than they might realize. Many employers have faced the consequences of not taking such policies seriously in their establishments, and have unsuccessfully faced claims and litigation for damages.
The domino effect only continues from there. Company reputation declines and deters not just an insignificant or niche group of candidates, but rather an entire demographic of female talent. In turn, and especially in cases where a lack of accountability or action exists, employees are more likely to lose faith in management, feel unsafe or less ethical about their work, and inevitably leave in search of different work.
With the advent of the current social climate and significance of initiatives like the #MeToo movement, workplace treatment, and discrimination has become a fresh priority for any industry. The DFK, therefore, makes it clear that corporate responsibility and leadership responsibility are needed to create a climate in which sexism can no longer exist.
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