Friday, October 12, 2007

Six Percent Versus 21% -- Why Do CEOs Think So Few Employees Are Victims of Domestic Violence?

Here is something interesting.

On September 25, we released results of a new survey of employees of Fortune 1500 companies in conjunction with Liz Claiborne -- they released a parallel survey of Fortune 1500 top executives. We did this in partnership with Safe Horizon as we all worked together to launch SafeWork 2010 – a program to challenge CEOs to address domestic violence as a workplace issue. The idea is to get 200 CEOs from Fortune 500 companies to sign this pledge by 2010.

At any rate, in our parallel surveys, while we found that 26% of Fortune 1500 female employees were victims of domestic violence, and that 18% of all Fortune 1500 employees (male and female) identified themselves as such – guess how many victims the CEOs thought worked for them? (By the way this was very similar to the national survey CAEPV did in 2005 when we found that 21% of full time employed adults were victims of domestic violence.)

They guessed 6%.

At the same time, 90% of employees thought it was important for workplaces to have a program to train managers to recognize and respond to domestic violence as a workplace issue – while only 13% of CEOs thought that the workplace was really the place to do something about it.

Why the difference?

My guess is that employees and managers are “on the ground” and seeing these situations on a daily basis. They know that domestic violence is impacting the workplace – they know it is a productivity, absenteeism, presenteeism, turnover, healthcare, and workplace safety issue. They are managing it.

But CEOs have a 30,000 foot view of things and they see the “broad strokes” – after all, that is their job. If someone does not tell them this is going on, how could they be aware of it?

One of the things we learned from the surveys is that if employees ask for it, CEOs say they are much more likely to make these kinds of programs happen.

SO – if you are an employee who wants this kind of program in your workplace, perhaps you can start the ball rolling by making your CEO aware of the impact domestic violence has in workplaces. You can find lots of information on that at

I wish the CEOs were right – I wish there were only 6% -- but since there are a lot more, we need to do everything we can to help make this issue “everybody’s business.”

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