The global epidemic of gender-based violence is staggering, and the statistics seem at times impossible to move. It is a human rights violation that knows no boundaries and affects every industry and every community. I’ve spent much of my career working in policing and tech corporations like Uber, creating safe spaces for women, the LGBTQ+ community and other historically marginalized groups. No corporation is immune to the challenge of addressing domestic and sexual violence. What I know is corporations have a tremendous opportunity with their scale and scope to drive awareness, prevention, and disruption of harm like never before. The problem is global, so their global reach is a critical asset in developing impactful solutions.
However, corporations often view solving deep societal and systemic problems as complex and fear efforts may lead to negative attention. That is rarely the case when corporations take meaningful, expert-informed actions. These hard issues are certainly not easy to address, so many corporations sit back, stay silent, and do nothing or very little, because they don’t want to get in the middle of these difficult conversations. They struggle with understanding the level of accountability they should have as well as their involvement when they believe the issue is not connected to the focus of their core business or worse that addressing the issue is not their responsibility. The fact is, if you have women and traditionally marginalized employees and consumers, then helping create safe spaces for them in and out of the workplace must always be a core business focus.
How can any of us ignore violence against women, the most devastating, pervasive endemic that the World Health Organization tells us causes harm to 1 in 3 women, or around 736 million women, in every country and culture. We also cannot forget that this harm also extends to some of the most marginalized in our communities including women of color and non-binary individuals.Those “hundreds of millions” and so many more are employed in corporations and drive consumer spending. Harvard Business Review tells us women alone control about $20 trillion in consumer spending globally. There is consumer research that has shown that safety, belonging, and wellbeing are top priorities for women and marginalized groups. Demonstrating genuine care and action is the right thing to do. That alone should be enough, but for those that need additional convincing, caring and creating safety for all is just good for business.
The responsibility of corporations is not to solve the global endemic of gender-based violence. It is too complex and nuanced for just one industry to solve alone. Just like all of us, though, corporations have a responsibility to our cities and our communities “to play a role”, and they have the global reach and power to play a critical role. Corporations have an opportunity to help create a safer ecosystem for everyone. We don’t solve gender-based violence without all of us working collectively.
Take tech companies and their platforms, for example. Every day millions of people across the globe use technology to socialize, create friendships, find their next date, make their next purchase, experience new travel destinations, and move safely around our cities. Technology across industries and platforms is woven into the design of not only our personal lives but the systems and institutions we engage with. Whether online or in real life, technology provides fast, convenient and scalable access to meeting many of our wants and needs, but it also facilitates spaces and connections where barriers show up and where harm, harassment. and abuse are amplified, particularly for those who have been historically marginalized.
How can corporations work together to be a part of the solution to addressing the devastating and pervasive issue of gender-based violence that shows up online and in real life? Here are a few concrete steps and evidence-based approaches corporations can take that can create meaningful impacts that are also not difficult to execute with the right help.
- Disrupt the silence: Lack of understanding and an unwillingness to speak openly about violence and harm against women and marginalized groups plays a large part in why these problems persist in the US and across the globe. Use your platform, marketing reach, and socials to raise awareness. With the help of experts, corporations can incorporate innovative ways to educate and create support for both employees and consumers while also leveraging technology. Creative and timely education can help in changing harmful attitudes, disrupt behavior, and foster healthy and respectful interactions and connections.
- Have our backs: We all play an important role in looking out for each other’s safety, creating safe spaces, and helping prevent harm and violence before it starts, along with demonstrating genuine care and action when it does. Creating and improving access to opportunities and support resources is a critical need. It is a huge, global barrier for women and marginalized groups. It is not as easy as it may seem to find dedicated resources when people need it the most. How can your corporation or platform be the “bystander” who we know we can turn to? Using your corporation or platform to create visible access to resources can create a genuine sense of belonging and care before harm happens and can also provide thoughtful support options when needed the most.
- Assemble for collective action: We are stronger together. There is power in industry and community collaboration. An important first step is asking for help. Corporations can work with industry experts and thought-leading organizations like NO MORE to learn more and build actionable commitments. Experts can also help you understand what other industry leaders are pioneering globally, creating opportunities for collaboration. Experts can help corporations incorporate their valuable insights into company practices, product features, and educational initiatives for consumers.
Employees and consumers alike have high expectations and are increasingly looking to corporations to take a values-based approach and lead sustainable efforts, helping find and deliver solutions that protect and promote meaningful social change for women and the most marginalized in our communities. Women, historically marginalized groups, and the communities who support them are also increasingly using their voices and personal platforms like never before, reminding corporations of these expectations and the right thing to do.
There is no easy solution, but corporations have the scale to take information and drive change with concrete actions in places others cannot reach. We need more corporations across all industries who are willing to step up and be accountable. Working together on sustainable efforts can allow us to bring awareness, remove barriers, help transform lives, and create new allies to assemble, help disrupt, and say NO MORE to sexual assault and domestic violence.
About Tracey Breeden
Tracey Breeden is the CEO and founder of Disrupt the Landing and host of The Disruption Podcast. Tracey and her team consult and partner with corporations, NGOs, government agencies, and individuals to create safe spaces through the implementation of policies and programs on digital platforms and in real life for users of these platforms and the employees of the organizations DTL works with.
Tracey has over two decades of experience in technology and government/public safety sectors. Tracey brings an intersectional, equity & inclusion lens to safety operations, products, policies, and programs. A former police officer and investigator with subject matter expertise in sexual assault and domestic violence. Tracey was Uber’s first Head of Women’s Safety and created Uber’s Global Women’s Safety & Gender-Based Violence Programs Team—the first global team dedicated to the safety of women and other vulnerable populations at Uber, and Tracey was the Vice President, Head of Safety and Social Advocacy at Match Group.
Tracey’s vision is to build authentic, equitable, and respectful communities that are free from all forms of harm.