Tips to Ensure a Safe Work Environment

Fighting discrimination through gender mainstreaming

Does your organisation have a safe environment where work-related concerns and gender issues can be addressed? Tackling bullying and sexual harassment in your organisation can be among your first steps towards gender mainstreaming and creating a safe work environment.

Often times, bullying and/or harassment is done by individuals who abuse their power (such as physical strength, popularity, information, and position) to control or harm a person or a group of people who is less powerful than them.

Women, gender non-conforming individuals, and LGBTIQA individuals may be particularly vulnerable to harassment as they may be singled out for their gender or sexual orientation. Whether bullying and harassment is taking place in person or by other means of communication such as emails, notes, pictures, etc., it is the responsibility of the organisation to train its team to identify acts of harassment in order to prevent it, and ensure victims/accusers feel comfortable reporting any incidents.

To evaluate the safety of your work environment, ask yourself these questions:

Does your organisation have policies that establish clear procedures (oral/written) to denounce and tackle discrimination, such as sexual harassment and bullying?

  1. Are staff members aware of these procedures?
  2. Do these procedures protect the identity of victims/accusers and alleged violators at any stage?
  3. Do these policies describe employees’ rights and responsibilities throughout the procedure? For example, do procedures include different channels that the victim/accuser can turn to? Does your organisation provide counseling services for the victims/accusers to talk about their abuse? Which steps can an victim/accuser follow in case such communication is ineffective?

Engage your team in a discussion on the following questions. As a group, think of some instances where your organisation can employ “positive discrimination policies for greater gender representation and inclusivity.” Positive discrimination policies can be temporary measures taken to encourage individuals and groups, who are usually disadvantaged or discriminated against, to access positions, activities or fields where they have low representation. Such policies can include applying a gender quota for women on the board of your organisation, and they go hand in hand with creating a safer environment in the workplace.

To create a safe work environment, active against bullying and harassment, consider these tips:

  1. Ensure anonymity to employees who report discriminatory behavior. Another good practice is to extent anonymity to alleged perpetrators as well.
  2. Encourage employees to denounce gender stereotyping and discriminatory statements in the workplace. This can be done in a friendly and respectful manner by explaining why it is important to refrain from stereotyping others in the office, how it contributes to reproducing inaccurate representations of individuals, and how gender-insensitive comments can inhibit teamwork and the team members’ overall level of comfort with one another.
  3. Develop communication channels to report discrimination to the board of your organisation (e.g. via an internal permanent committee or an ombudsperson that is responsible for periodic discrimination memos or monthly updates).
  4. Even when cases of discrimination are resolved on an individual level and without the organisation’s mediation, encourage employees to report the incident for organisational records.

Fighting discrimination through gender mainstreaming should be a collective effort, so it is crucial to engage your team in a discussion on what they believe would be conducive to a safer work environment.

For more information on fighting discrimination and tips on how to implement gender mainstreaming in your organisation, take a look at Lebanon Support’s “A Practical Guide for Civil Society Organisations in Lebanon towards Gender Mainstreaming.”

In 2017, Lebanon Support published the Gender Manual: “A Practical Guide for Civil Society Organisations in Lebanon towards Gender Mainstreaming”. This manual is published on our Gender Equity Network project on the Civil Society Knowledge Centre [civilsociety-centre.org/gen], and as part of our Civil Society Incubator programme [csincubator.lebanon-support.org]. It is available in English and Arabic here.

This Gender Manual has been published in collaboration with Diakonia.