Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Corporate Alliance in Turkey - and the "Ick Factor"

I haven't written for a while, but that is because I have been doing a lot of traveling and speaking. One wonderful opportunity was to be in Istanbul in November with companies working on the "Corporate Alliance" model in Turkey. They are challenging themselves to reach the top 25 companies in their country -- led by Hurriyet, the very large and very popular daily newspaper in Turkey.

Hurriyet's CEO, Vuslat Doğan Sabancı, is leading the charge on this issue. On the front page of the paper, she called on all companies to unite against domestic violence and said, "We would like to invite all companies to form an alliance of the private sector against this problem. This is one of the main topics of this conference.”

It is quite amazing to have a large media company with such influence take such a strong stance on this issue and to use precious "business space" and time and resources to address it. It would be exciting to have the New York Times or Washington Post do the same thing some day -- following the lead of Hurriyet.

We look forward to working with the companies in Turkey and in learning from them and sharing together.

It was interesting as we asked the attendees to break into smaller groups and develop lists of potential "obstacles" to companies understanding how domestic violence impacts the workplace and why businesses should become involved. The obstacles the participants in Turkey outlined were the same obstacles that our partners everywhere face:
  • businesses don't know the "business case" for addressing domestic violence
  • they don't understand how it impacts their workplaces right now
  • they are concerned about overstepping their boundaries as employers
  • they don't see how addressing the issue preventatively can benefit them, etc.
  • there is that really uncomfortable "ick" factor about domestic violence
And while the "answers" to those obstacles may be different in the different countries with which we partner, the obstacles are eerily similar. We are not talking about companies taking on something just to be "kind" -- it is about addressing something that impacts the workplace and that benefits them to address.

And about the "ick factor." It is interesting -- when I was stuck in a certain city during the snow/ice storms in early December I was really struck by the "uncomfortable subject" part of this issue. Since I was in the Executive Lounge of the hotel hanging out with business people and talking, the subject of my job came up. The variance in reactions what fascinating -- some people were very polite, some were interested and really understood the impact of domestic violence on the workplace ("like a work-life issue, right?" one guy said). . . and then there was the other "ick factor" reaction. People who had been really seeming to enjoy my company were suddenly not so comfortable talking with me when they found out what I did for a job.

Why? I am not sure. But clearly, domestic violence makes people uncomfortable. And it should -- it is a terrible, terrible thing. But I was fascinated that even in a pretty "sanitized" discussion about the issue, some people could not wait to leave the conversation.

Clearly, there is lots to do to help people be able to have a conversation as a starting point. And using the communication network and resources of a workplace to provide information and help to employees who need it is quite powerful.

Congratulations to Hurriyet and all those all over the world who are leading the way!

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