Business Coalition for Gender Equality country director Kyawt Kay Thi Win. (Supplied)

SPONSORED: Building a safe and happy workplace

Business Coalition for Gender Equality country director Kyawt Kay Thi Win explains the “16 Days of Activism Campaign Against Gender-Based Violence” campaign and what businesses can do to ensure the wellbeing of their employees during COVID-19.

As a trusted adviser and the centre of excellence in workplace gender equality, the Business Coalition for Gender Equality (BCGE) works with businesses and organisations – particularly top management and HR practitioners – to support workplace gender equality initiatives. It helps them to improve their organisation’s culture, policies and practices and align their strategies to ensure they are inclusive and sustainable businesses. 

Anti-harassment and non-discrimination are important areas of workplace gender equality for BCGE. From November 25 to December 10, the coalition, its member firms and partners are working together on a “16 Days of Activism Campaign Against Gender-Based Violence” with the aim of creating a safe and happy workplace free of harassment, discrimination and bullying, in the context of COVID-19.

Can you tell us about the Business Coalition for Gender Equality?

The Business Coalition for Gender Equality (BCGE) is a non-profit association, as well as a coalition of companies that are committed to promoting gender equality in Myanmar workplaces.

Our association is led and founded by seven leading businesses in Myanmar – City Mart Holding Limited (CMHL), KBZ Bank, KBZ MS, AYA Bank, FMI, Parami Energy Group of Companies, and Shwe Taung Group. They have all committed to undertaking workplace gender equality initiatives in order to achieve inclusive and better workplaces in line with sustainable business and global sustainable development goals.

BCGE now has 21 businesses of different sizes across several industries, all of which are committed to implementing workplace gender equality initiatives and advancement. BCGE encourages all companies and organisations in the commercial sector to initiate workplace gender equality practices, and it serves as a centre of excellence to support their journey.

What is your objective in doing the 16 Days of Activism Campaign?

This “Safe and Happy Workplace” campaign aims to highlight the importance of ending gender-based violence at the workplace and at home, particularly as many companies transition to working-from-home situations. BCGE aims to amplify the initiatives and practices of businesses in their anti-harassment and non-discrimination initiations, in addition to sharing organisation policies with HR practitioners in order to create better workplaces free of harassment, discrimination, and bullying, particularly during COVID-19.

How do we know if we have been harassed or bullied or discriminated against? 

A good question. In order to recognise if we are being harassed or bullied, or if we ourselves are carrying out these harmful actions, we should first be aware of what actions and behaviours actually constitute harassment or bullying. Without this knowledge, we might not always be aware that certain behaviors and actions that have been normalised in the workplace – for example, due to outdated stereotypes or a toxic culture – are actually forms of harassment. 

What common types of harassment that can occur in the workplace?

There are six forms of harassment that, either intentionally or unintentionally, occur regularly in the workplace: discrimination, physical harassment, power harassment, psychological harassment, cyberbullying and sexual harassment. We provide detailed training to help combat these issues, including interactive discussion sessions from our gender specialists to spread understanding and practical intervention techniques within the workplace.

Why is it important for organisations to build a safe and happy workplace in terms of workplace harassment?

It is really important for businesses to develop in this area as failure to do so could harm their reputation, decrease productivity and retention, and create a hostile work environment – all of which could lead to that business losing its standing and making it very difficult to survive in a competitive market.

How does BCGE support organisations to become safe and happy harassment-free workplaces?

We require all our members to have anti-harassment and non-discrimination policies, and we review these policies and provide templates if needed. We also have interactive anti-harassment training sessions available for the participants to commit themselves to implementing these anti-harassment procedures. Additionally, if the participating organisations would like to see their employees’ development going forward, we follow up and monitor their progress.

What can Myanmar businesses and organisations do to help build safe and happy workplaces, especially during the current COVID period?

Companies and organisations should have a strong organisational culture, particularly in regards to policies and practices, such as responsive complaint mechanisms. Employers should also keep their employees’ wellbeing in mind during this work-from-home period and try to offer support in addressing family burdens and cases of domestic violence. Approaches like these would be very useful for the employees themselves, while simultaneously portraying these organisations as responsible businesses in a competitive market.

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