ETI has released new Base Code guidance for companies to help them embed gender equality in their supply chains. But why are women particularly vulnerable to discrimination and abuse and what does the guidance include?
A world in which women and men enjoy equal treatment in the workplace … that’s the vision.
Unfortunately, reality is far from this, especially for millions of women workers across global supply chains. For them, reality is a world in which they work long hours for meagre pay often in unsafe conditions, and constantly face various forms of harassment.
It is a world in which women are disproportionately represented in the lower tiers of the supply chain, without much hope for progressing towards more productive and better paid work.
For companies who are concerned about their workers and are serious about upholding their commitments to respect and protect them, there has to be a concerted effort to better understand the risks and vulnerabilities that are particular to women workers.
Especially because there is sound evidence which shows that greater equality in the workplace benefits not only the workers but also the business. This includes lower absenteeism and turnover, and higher productivity and ultimately profit.
However, gender inequality is a complex issue that is rooted in social and cultural behaviours. And companies can struggle to understand the issues and challenges faced by women workers and respond to them.
ETI’s latest Base Code Guidance is a step towards unravelling the complexity of gender equality in supply chains. The guidance:
- Aims to help businesses understand the likely gender issues in their supply chains and provide guidance on how to respond to them.
- Is targeted at addressing women workers’ needs because of their particular disadvantages (although the ways in which other genders as well as vulnerable groups such as young women and migrant workers are affected by discrimination in the workplace is also highlighted where relevant).
- Emphasises the need to develop women’s access to collective structures such as trade unions and action so as to understand their views and experiences, and give them a voice in the workplace.
- Recognises that achieving gender equality in the workplace is a complex and long-term process which requires a focus on the challenges women face in the economy and in society - and which cannot be achieved by companies alone.
Presented in a two-part series, Part A of the guidance sets out the rationale for addressing gender inequality in supply chains including the key factors that affect women given their specific vulnerabilities.
It also outlines the gender dimensions of the ETI Base Code and the challenges companies face in observing the principles enshrined in the Code from a gender perspective.
Part B provides guidance to companies on a gradual and long-term approach to integration of gender equality and women worker’s rights in their supply chains.
Using the ETI human rights due diligence framework as a starting point, Part B outlines how companies can conduct assessments and design appropriate responses that result in sustainable improvements to working conditions for both women and men workers.
A world in which women and men enjoy equal treatment in the workplace … ETI wants it to become a reality, not just a vision.