Roundup: Taking Care of Business Can Lead to Positive Social Change

Beth Saunders

Businesses are asked to help protect women around the world from violence, and workers believe their employers should offer equal benefits to same-sex partners. Plus, HIV tests at the DMV.

In business, its often the bottom line that drives company practices. But occasionally that can mean doing the right thing.

From Bloomberg Businessweek, an opinion piece advocates for businesses to push passage of the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA). Why are they interested?

All over the world, violence exacts a huge economic toll on women, which, in turn, drains the worldwide economy of key resources. For example, a World Bank study has found that in Nicaragua, women who reported abuse earned 46 percent less than women who did not. Women in India lost an average of seven working days after an incident of severe violence, according to the International Center for Research on Women. In many countries, girls might go to primary school, but their families will not send them to secondary schools further away for fear the girls will be subject to abuse in school by teachers or other students, or harassment on the way to school. Women who report sexual abuse in the workplace are often fired or demoted: In Kenya, for example, 95 percent of women who had experienced sexual abuse in their workplace were afraid to report the problem for fear of losing their jobs, according to the International Labor Rights Fund. U.S. businesses are not immune to the economic costs of such violence, not to mention the human costs of violence faced by employees, colleagues, or people in the communities they operate in: Raw materials, supply chains, support services, and customers are drawn from all over the world.

And what can American businesses do about it?

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Now managers in U.S. corporations can help make a difference to even more women by helping to get IVAWA passed. Specifically, managers can:

• Get their company to sign a corporate letter supporting IVAWA. It has already been endorsed by the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria.

• Encourage their corporate offices overseas to support fair treatment of women by educating them about ending violence and why it’s good for everyone;

• Educate the American workforce about IVAWA with e-mail alerts and office postings and by encouraging them to be personal advocates on the issue;

• Implement corporate social responsibility programs that help end violence against women in the overseas communities they work in.

In other business news, it turns out that Americans actually do care about their fellow worker, and the majority would prefer to work for companies that treat all employees – gay or straight – equally when it comes to providing benefits for spouses and partners.

About 62% of heterosexual respondents believe that all employees’ partners are entitled to equal benefits on the job regardless of sexual orientation and 63% think spouses and partners should receive untaxed health insurance benefits, according to the Harris Interactive, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates and Witeck-Combs Communications study. The survey involved 2,334 adults who identified themselves as heterosexual and 386 who were identified as LGBT.

Exactly 74% of heterosexual respondents think both spouses of married heterosexual employees and committed partners of LGBT employees should receive leave for employees who lose a spouse, partner or close family member; about 70% think spouses and partners should receive leave rights for family and medical emergencies under the Family and Medical Leave Act, according to the survey.

In addition, 52% of respondents said it was extremely or very important that they work for a company that offers equal health insurance benefits to all employees.

American businesses have the power to affect huge social change. Here’s hoping they do the right thing.

Mini-Roundup: Waiting in line at the DMV just got a whole lot healthier in Washington, DC. You can now get a free HIV test while waiting to renew your driver’s license. In fact, you can get up to a $15 voucher good for DMV services for participating.

Oct 5

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