Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty - Taking a (corporate) stand to protect female employees
This years’ “women’s month” was nothing short of an oxymoron with horrific acts of violence towards women and children, both highlighting the extent of the problem and the need for the country to take continue to a stand and work together to protect society’s most vulnerable.
So says Yael Geffen, CEO of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, adding that it has become clear this responsibility cannot be left to the authorities and, in industries like real estate where women are especially vulnerable, business needs to take the initiative in protecting employees.
“The majority of agents are women and they generally work alone away from the secure confines of an office, regularly schedule appointments with people they have never met and, through advertising show house dates, they broadcast their whereabouts to the world at large.
“Most crimes against estate agents are crimes of opportunity, so it’s imperative that we take steps to reduce their vulnerability and to empower them to better defend themselves should they find themselves in a tight situation.”
She says that there are a number of steps that companies can take in order to better protect their agents:
- Offer self-defense workshops for female employees and their female family members. It's a perk that will not only be appreciated but could potentially save lives;
- Sign up to free security apps like Namola which has just launched a panic button that you can have on you at all times. All business owners should invest in these for their female staff;
- Team up with armed guard services for show houses and consult with on-site security when showing homes in estates;
- Teach and encourage awareness - criminals use the element of surprise and by paying closer attention to unusual or suspicious behaviour and challenging it, you can reconfigure the odds. Don't be afraid to inquire or report;
- Get expert advice - law enforcement officials are usually willing to come in and speak to your employees and private enterprises also offer courses and lectures about safety and security;
- Encourage an open door policy at management level so that employees feel comfortable addressing any issues with you and reaching if when necessary;
- Communicate and rally together, be transparent, share concerns and join support groups on Facebook to stay informed.
- Educate the many men who do want to be of service and help protect; create vigilant behaviours so that they are better able to spot situations and assist;
- Ensure that all staff is briefed and trained regarding the security policies.
Geffen says that there are also numerous preventative measures that women can take to minimise their vulnerability, especially to opportunistic crimes:
- Don’t wear visibly expensive jewellery as it will attract attention;
- Carry pepper spray and keep it handy – it’s of no use if it’s lying at the bottom of a full handbag;
- Ensure that quick communication is possible if a problem arises (speed dial telephone numbers, panic buttons etc);
- Wherever possible, try to have another person along with you and if you are showing a house to a new potential buyer, request that the owner remains on site;
- Try and vary your schedule as much as possible as criminals will often watch someone for a while before they strike;
- Always let someone at the office know where you are going, especially if it’s an appointment with a stranger.
Geffen concludes: “The term feminist has been bandied about to the point where it has a negative connotation and people are embarrassed to use the term.
“However, if you look it up, the translation is quite clear - it simply refers to equality with regards to both genders and both men and women the world over should be feminists.
“If women were truly regarded as equal by all there would be a dramatic reduction in violence towards them.”