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In the name of gender equality! This is how Ukrainian companies fight domestic violence and discrimination in a workplace

35 Ukrainian companies have signed the Declaration for gender equality and against domestic violence. The document was initiated by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Center for Corporate Social Responsibility Development in 0219. By implementing gender-sensitive policies, companies contribute to the well-being of the employees, their clients, and their families. These measures reflect positively on the business’ performance and its reputation. 

Why is it important? According to the UNFPA research, 24% of the office workers in Ukrainian companies have suffered from domestic violence. Because of it, 16% of them don’t show up at work and 10% are forced to get another job. The situations of violence or discrimination have a negative impact on the employees’ emotional state and efficiency. Often, troubles at home result in poor performance in the workplace.

Apart from that, it is important to develop a culture of an equal distribution of domestic responsibilities. According to the UNFPA research, only 5% of office workers who took parental leave were men. At the same time, it is the mother who takes the sick leave on almost half of the occasions when a child gets sick. 27% of workers responded that their colleagues accept it better when a mother takes paternity leave rather than a father.  

The businesses that embrace gender equality, create equal opportunities for the employees to fulfill their full potential with no gender-based bias. It improves the working conditions and increases the productivity of the company. 

The Declaration signatories not only care about the people they hire but also about their family members. The family-friendly policies help to create better working conditions and fight the gender-based stereotypes by giving more equal rights for parental leave for both men and women. It enhances the Ukrainian men’s role in children’s upbringing, while also gives the women more opportunities for career growth. 

Let’s take a look at the initiatives that the Declaration signatories implement for gender equality and against domestic violence. Here are the examples of Kernel, Avon, and Ukrzaliznytsia. 

Ukrzaliznytsia 

Ukraine’s biggest state-owned employer Ukrzaliznytsia joined the Declaration for gender equality and against domestic violence in 2021. The company’s Head of the Sustainable Development and Internal Communications department Ihor Kotelyanets is convinced the step would help engage the other state companies into fighting gender-based violence and discrimination in the workplace.

“Any actions of such a big player have an impact on the labor market and on the society in general. We are aware of our responsibility to the society and hope our initiatives in the implementation of gender-sensitive policies and countering gender-based violence will become a good example to follow for other state-owned companies”, he says.

In order to promote the change within the state sector, Ukrzaliznytsia is going to take part in an International Legal Forum that is dedicated to the human rights discussion. “We will share our experience and inspire the state companies to progress”, Kotelyanets adds.

Ukrzaliznytsia is Ukraine’s biggest employer: around 250 employees work at the company. That is why the company embraces the gender equality principles primarily to take care of its own workers. As well as of its customers, that in Ukrzaliznytsia’s case means taking care of almost every Ukrainian.

Ukrzaliznytsia says ‘’no’’ to discrimination in the workplace

This year, the company made a research on discrimination in the workplace for the first time. 4000 of the company’s employees all over Ukraine took part in a survey. Ihor Kotelyanets tells that the research discovered several key violations:

  • Women and young specialists denied promotions to the management positions even if their competence met the demands;
  • Career development obstacles for the workers with children of pre-school and elementary school age; 
  • The humiliation of physically weaker workers, those in lower positions or the ones expressing disagreement with management;
  • LGBT-employees treated with bias;
  • Lack of infrastructure for the workers with disabilities.

The company believes that discrimination creates a toxic and demotivating atmosphere in the workplace. That is why Ukrzaliznytsia makes every effort to create the conditions in which employees can fulfill their potential and would not seek decent alternatives elsewhere, but will remain loyal to the company. 


Photo from the page "Укрзалізниця. Портал для співробітників".

To do that the company will first evaluate the compliance of its corporate policies with the principles of non-discrimination and gender sensitivity. One hundred employees will be involved in the evaluation. The next step will be the new Inclusion and Diversity Policy development. It will be applied within the entire company and will change every employee’s life.

“The Policy will be a base for improvement of HR-procedures (recruitment, HR-reserve, career development, dismissals, etc.) and creating opportunities for discrimination prevention. First,  we are going to implement the initiatives in the service unit that directly works with the customers. This includes the employees who ensure the passenger service, train attendants, stewards, and train managers”, Ihor Kotelyanets says.

Ukrzaliznytsia cares about passengers safety

80% of train attendants and train managers, corporate psychologists with whom the company held in-depth interviews, say that conflicts among the passengers of Ukrzaliznytsia trains happen almost every trip. 67% of respondents wished to undergo training in conflict resolution and non-conflict communication to learn the algorithm of actions in these situations. 

Unfortunately, the sexual violence incidents inside the trains are not isolated either. In order to prevent the violence in the trains, including gender-based violence, Ukrzaliznytsia along with the United Nations Population Fund plans to develop a training program for train attendants and train managers. In the future, this course will become a mandatory part of the training process of the service unit workers.

Ihor Kotelyanets tells that company is going to develop a memo about prevention/countering the violence for the train attendants and train managers. “We are also willing to conduct an information campaign within Ukrzaliznytsia to promote a sustainable behavior for safety and gender-based violence prevention. We will develop a zero tolerance to discrimination among employees”, he adds.  

Raising children is a man’s job too

This May a “paternity leave law” came into force. According to it, from now on men can take paternity leave without a certificate that a child’s mother had come back to work before her maternity leave ended. With this law, male workers have got more opportunities to take an active part in raising their children, and Ukrzaliznytsia’s employees are no exception.

Almost seven percent of workers, who took parental leave in 2021 to look after a child under the age of three, were men. It is four percent more than the entire amount of men currently on parental leave. This year five percent more men took a leave to take care of children under the age of six than the number of all men who are taking care of children at this age. 

“There is a clear tendency of more men exercising their right for paternity leave. But the change will be more noticeable soon: the new law has only started working this spring. I guess the statistics will speak for itself better in the future”, Ukrzaliznytsia’s Head of the Sustainable Development and Internal Communications department Ihor Kotelyanets hopes.

Avon

In Ukraine Avon has tackled the issue of violence against women since 2009. In 2019 the company started cooperating with UNFPA Ukraine to fight domestic violence together and help the ones who suffered. The company has determined the two priorities in this regard: spreading the information about the services that women who suffered from violence can use, and fundraising and implementing projects to help the ones who suffered. Avon also cares about its employees who face violence or get into difficult life circumstances. Here are some initiatives that Avon implements.

Avon helps the ones who suffered from violence

Often when running away from the abuser, the last thing women think of is to collect their belongings. At the moment when the suffered ones manage to break the circle of violence, the most important thing for them is to find a safe place to stay. Often they find themselves in the shelters without clothes or means of subsistence.

In 2019 in order to help women who suffered from domestic violence, Avon handed over 77 thousand units of production to UNFPA. This included shoes, clothes, and accessories worth more than 10 million hryvnias in total. The aid was handed over to the suffered through shelters, day crisis centers, and mobile teams of social-psychological support.

Avon also cares about the customers who got under the pressure of sexual or physical violence. Together with UNFPA, the company developed a special Protocol for the company Representatives. The Protocol clearly describes how to act and to support a person that suffers from violence. Avon has printed out 3000 leaflets with this information and spread them among the company’s representatives all over Ukraine.

In the future, Avon plans to hold training for the Representatives, Partners, and full-time employees to raise awareness about domestic violence, its impact on the professional life of the ones who suffered, and to explain the ways to help. 

A large-scale media project is on its way to draw the attention of the public to the domestic violence issue. The details are coming soon.

“It is commonly not acceptable to discuss the issue out loud in Ukraine, because there is no clear boundary between a regular fight and humiliation, physical, financial or psychological violence. We believe that it should not just be discussed, but the issue should be broadly present in the agenda, the information on the prevention measures should be accessible, and the ones who suffered should have the support. And then probably the numbers of suffering from domestic violence will decrease”, says Aryna Ihnatieva, who is a leader of Avon’s “Charity-2021” project.

$25 000 to open the crisis room

According to the national survey* initiated by Avon, 34% of Ukrainian women faced domestic violence themselves or are aware of the cases of violence in their surroundings. The issue got worse because of the quarantine restrictions: according to National Police statistics, in only the first half of 2020, the number of hotline calls concerning violence increased by 101 thousand comparing with the last year. 

Having taken the responsibility to counter violence, in June of this year Avon and UNFPA signed an agreement to open a crisis room for the women who suffered from domestic violence, where they can live for up to 10 days and where abusers will not threaten them. The project’s worth was $25 000. These costs will be used to repair the building allotted to the crisis room and to procure the necessary equipment.

* The research company Gradus conducted nationwide research that was ordered by Avon in September 2021 to study the dynamics of change in the lives of Ukrainian women. 800 respondents took part in a survey: they were women aged 18-65 from the cities and towns with a population over 50 000 except Crimea and the area of Special Forces Operation.

The Nova Sculpture 

It is equally important for Avon to fight the gender stereotypes that are common in society and limit the opportunities for women to fulfill their potential. According to the national survey carried out by Avon and Kantar, 79% of Ukrainian women face gender stereotypes. Most frequently, the prejudice relates to the choice between career and family, where the society primarily insists on the women’s family duties. Only 39% of women admitted they were self-realized, and only a half felt happy.

That is why Avon initiated an art project which was designed to draw the attention of the public to the issue of common stereotypes about women. This year Avon presented a new city sculpture that is now exhibited at the territory of the National Center “Ukrainian House”.

The Nova Sculpture is a certain manifesto that shows a woman who breaks through the limits of common stereotypes on her path to self-realization.  The sculpture consists of two parts: on the outside, there are the symbolic bars that symbolize the social stereotypes; on the inside, there is a women’s figure that frees herself from their captivity. The sculpture was also made by a woman - Ukrainian modern artist and sculptor Ani Svami (Anna Naduda). Her works can be found in private collections in Ukraine, Austria, Sweden, Germany, France, The United Kingdom, Cyprus, and Poland.


Photo from the official website AVON

The Ambassador for the Gender-Based Violence

As a socially responsible business, Avon cares about the safety and psychological state of employees. In November 2020 Avon implemented a Protocol on gender-based violence that aims to support Avon employees who face it. 

Following the Protocol, the company established a position of an Ambassador for Gender-Based Violence. Any employee who faces violence can contact her. The Ambassador helps the workers who suffered to contact the local services of support.

Based on each individual case, the company may offer flexible work conditions or a vacation for those who faced violence, the Ambassador for Gender-Based Violence Aryna Ihnatieva tells: “the situations can be different, and we realize that sometimes a person may need time to move out, for instance, or arrange a new place of living, or maybe get psychological help. As a company, we will never give up on our people who found themselves in difficult life circumstances. That is why we believe that each case must be considered individually to see what we can do to help”.

Kernel 

Last year Kernel signed a Declaration for gender equality and against domestic violence. For the company it was a consistent step within the equal opportunities policy that is now implemented at the company. To comply with it Kernel creates equal conditions for work and cooperation between the employees with no discrimination based on their abilities, social status, age, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. 

Tolerant co-workers

Kernel stands against discrimination in any way and shape. “It is important for us to have employees who share the company values. That is why we develop tolerance to being different within our company and intolerance to violence. Raising the awareness of these issues is the first step towards the understanding why equal rights and opportunities for both men and women are important”, Kernel’s HR Department manager Nataliia Kulchytska says. 

To make this happen, Kernel started a series of webinars that address the important aspects of gender equality and describe how gender inequality and domestic violence can be countered. The webinar devoted to gender mainstreaming in the corporate sector and men engagement through responsible fatherhood has been hosted by a program analyst at UNFPA Nataliia Koshovska.


On photo: Oleksiy, Kernel's leading in-house logistics specialist, with children. Read Oleksiy's story here.

At webinars the real cases are examined in order to teach the employees to identify any violations at work and prevent them, recognize domestic violence, and learn the algorithm of actions in these situations.

In addition, at the corporate portal Kernel HUB a new tab was created filled with relevant online resources. The posters and information brochures about domestic violence were placed in the offices and assets of the company. 

The company’s management cares about the employees’ psychological state. They in turn gladly share the knowledge they get outside of work, thus spreading the area of positive impact. That is what the webinars’ participants repeatedly noted during the evaluation.

Apart from raising awareness, Kernel gives employees the tools to counter discrimination in the workplace and domestic violence. For this purpose a special hotline operates in the company. This way the workers can get the relevant contact information of the services and centers, where one can get judicial, psychological and consulting assistance on a local level. 

Gender-sensitive measures mean higher profits!

A range of constant initiatives was implemented at Kernel enterprises to fulfill the principles of the Declaration. Pregnant employees and those on parental leave can switch to remote work. After giving birth, the female workers are given bonuses. In order to promote a healthy lifestyle, the company runs a jogging club “Healthy mum - healthy child!”

Kernel provides substantial financial aid to female employees with disabilities. When it is needed, the company pays for the surgeries, medicine and covers the rehabilitation expenses. Kernel also supports those female employees who found themselves in a complicated financial state. 

Within the working space the company aims to create the most comfortable conditions for employees, being aware that fairness does not always mean equality. That is why, for instance, there are more women’s toilets than men’s in the company. 

Kernel’s gender-sensitive policies have a positive impact not only on the workers’ well-being but on the company performance, HR Department manager Nataliia Kulchytska believes: “Certainly we expect that our unprecedented economic performance has been influenced by the implementation of the gender-sensitive measures and the fight against the gender-based violence”.

 #МожуБутиКимЗахочу (#CanBeWhateverIWant)

At Kernel there are a lot of female workers who among other things do what is commonly referred to as a “man’s job”. When doing something they like, women still feel the pressure of society. Kernel works on breaking these gender stereotypes. In order to do it, the company started a flesh mob  #МожуБутиКимЗахочу (#CanBeWhateverIWant).

“The flesh mob is a manifesto of modern women who decide for themselves what, when and how they should do. Either to take care of a household or their looks, take care of children or build a career, getting or giving flowers. It is possible to self-realize in different ways and be equally happy. Kernel’s flesh mob has proved to be popular in social media: hundreds of female employees and their friends or people they just know from big cities and small villages, different regions and districts. We were heard, we were trusted with personal stories. Together we managed to prove that being yourself is beautiful!”, Nataliia Kulchytska tells.


Photo from the official page Kernel

After the successful flesh mob, the company along with UNFPA initiated another tradition - sharing the colleagues’ stories that tell how the gender-sensitive measures work within the company.

Kernel also teaches the professions that were previously not accessible for women. For instance, now it is possible to learn and obtain a specialty of a “production operator” directly at the enterprise. 

Kernel for the future

The company is going to initiate a range of activities that aim to enhance the declared principles of gender equality. The Women Leadership Development Program will be launched, as well as  leadership clubs for sharing experience and knowledge among women. Two other programs are about to launch too: Women in Supply and Women in Sales. In addition, the company is now actively working on the development of mechanisms of supporting women who live in the rural areas, the parents who have children with disabilities and widows to wrap with care as many employees as possible.