Leveraging Technology to Uncover Gender-Based Violence in Supply Chains

Supply chains
Women comprise 41 per cent of the supply chain workforce, yet unequal opportunities for women continue to exist around the world.
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Published on
June 15, 2023

To support brands in identifying the risk of gender-based violence and harassment in their supply chains, diginex has launched a new Gender Module in its supply chain due diligence platform, diginexLUMEN. This module empowers suppliers to assess gaps on gender equity issues, while crucially reaching workers and giving them a voice through the integrated worker voice tool, diginexAPPRISE.

Women comprise 41 per cent of the supply chain workforce, yet unequal opportunities for women continue to exist around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic reversed progress on gender equality to the extent that nearly a generation’s worth of advancement was undone, while a positive development has been the steady rise in social movements such as #MeToo and Time’s Up. These movements have brought critical attention to the issue of gender-based violence in our workplaces and have shone a light on the chronic issues of power imbalance, entitlement, and inherent disadvantage and bias that still exist in so many workplaces around the world.  Collectively, these systemic imbalances foster the risk of gender-based violence and harassment of women at work.

While global supply chains are providing women with immeasurable opportunities for paid work – not all these opportunities deliver safe and decent working conditions. Women’s jobs tend to be concentrated in the most insecure and labour-intensive parts of the supply chain, with women holding 60 to 90 per cent of jobs in the labour-intensive stages of the apparel and fresh produce global supply chains. Women are also overly represented in the informal economy, in jobs that are not regulated or protected and in temporary or seasonal jobs, without contracts and limited security. With women disproportionately dominating these low-paid roles, men are still more likely to be the majority in managerial and supervisory positions – leading to the ever-present global gender pay gap.

Because of both the precarious nature of women’s work in global supply chains and the power dynamics created by women employed in low-paid roles while men continue to dominate management positions, women working in global supply chains are uniquely vulnerable to the risk of gender-based violence and harassment at work.  This is especially the case in settings such as garment manufacturing or on farms and plantations.

Recognising this, responsible multinational organisations take a zero-tolerance approach to gender-based violence in their supply chains – with the World Benchmarking Alliance finding that 83 per cent of the world’s largest apparel companies contractually requiring their suppliers to have a policy that explicitly prohibits violence and harassment (including sexual harassment) in the workplace. However, the industry is still plagued by abuse, with the Fair Wear Foundation stating that almost 60 per cent of Bangladeshi garment factory workers experience harassment at work. Women in agriculture are similarly vulnerable. In Ecuador’s export-oriented flower production industry, for example, one study reported that over 55 per cent of flower workers have suffered some form of sexual harassment. Yet, only 2 per cent of social audits identify sexual harassment cases – highlighting a mismatch between policy commitment and implementation.

diginexLUMEN’s Gender Module was designed to help companies detect gender inequalities in their supply chains, including risk of violence and harassment that is disproportionately experienced by women workers. The tool helps suppliers carry out a self-diagnostic, gender gap analysis – using a survey developed by Unilever and validated by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW). Recognising that at the heart of a robust gender-responsive due diligence process there must be meaningful engagement with women workers, diginex developed a new survey, to identify the distinct and differing experiences of work for women and men workers.

diginexLUMEN uniquely offers an innovative new feature that triangulates the data between employer and worker responses.  The triangulation feature flags if the worker experience is inconsistent with management systems. This helps brands digest large amounts of gender-disaggregated data, to quickly identify where issues may exist, while also driving transparency of management practices and worker experiences.

Contact us today to learn more about diginexLUMEN’s Gender Module and help your company lead the way in eradicating gender-based violence.

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