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Pushing for a culture of equality… beyond Pride month

The question of what private companies that surface during Pride month do beyond the month of June is valid, and should be asked. Enter Accenture, one of the most… conspicuous private companies during Pride in the Philippines.

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Screencap from the FB account of Accenture in the Philippines

June may mark the Western-influenced observance of LGBTQIA Pride; but with it comes the still often Western-driven commercialization of the same. This is the time when numerous companies use the rainbow to highlight their supposed support for the LGBTQIA community, though really only as a marketing strategy.

The question of what these private companies that surface during Pride month do beyond the month of June is, therefore, valid, and should be asked.

Enter Accenture, one of the most… conspicuous private companies during Pride in the Philippines.

According to Marixi Carlos, inclusion and diversity lead of Accenture in the Philippines: “Accenture believes that the real power in diversity lies dormant without creating an environment where people feel integrated, feel that they belong, and feel open to expressing their ideas and uniqueness – where inclusion is a reality. When employees feel a sense of belonging and identification with the organization, they are naturally motivated to help it succeed.” This is why for Accenture, “creating a truly human environment in which everyone feels they belong, their uniqueness is valued and they can be their best professionally and personally, is at the heart of (the company’s) values and broader talent ambition.”

The company was recognized as “a corporate leader that supports all our employees; that our efforts to become the most inclusive and diverse employer have been recognized via the EDGE Move Certification that we received in 2018. Accenture was the first company in the Philippines to receive said certification from the Economic Dividends for Gender Equality (EDGE), a leading global assessment methodology and business certification standard for gender equality in recognition of our commitment to foster gender equality in the workplace.”

For Carlos, “Accenture is and has always been a people-focused company. Our success for the past 35 years of operations in the Philippines is primarily because of the hard work and dedication of all our employees through the years. That is why Accenture has been implementing programs that prioritize our employees’ welfare and well-being all year round. That will always be our priority as a company, especially as a leader in the IT-BPM industry.”

CHANGING THE CULTURE

According to Carlos, the company has various efforts that eye to “accelerate a culture of equality”.

Firstly, “we are committed in fostering an inclusive environment for all sexual orientations and gender identities,” she said. So globally, “we work to ensure that our policies and practices foster equality in all the geographies that Accenture operates in.”

The company is trying to provide “same employee benefits to same-sex and opposite-sex partners in all countries where law permits”.

This is somewhat tricky, of course, since in the Philippines, for example, marriage equality is not legal, and those in same-sex relationships are not legally allowed to name their partners as beneficiaries (e.g. in SSS).

But Carlos said that in the Philippines, the company’s “initiatives to support this commitment” includes:

In December 2018, introduction of the expanded parental-leave benefits package. This included an “Inclusion & Diversity Leave,” which allows employees with a declared life partner to take 30 consecutive days of leave for a live birth or legal adoption of a child below seven years old. “Secondary Caregiver Leave” benefit may also be availed by the spouse, life partner or relative up to the 4th degree of consanguinity, who also works for Accenture.

The company also has a “Gender-Neutral Dress Code Policy, which allows employees to dress according to their gender expression.”

Secondly, as part of Accenture’s specialized trainings, there is the LGBTI Leaders Learning (L3), “an intensive regional training that provides high-potential executives the information, tools and support to continue to build their careers and develop into role models and managers,” Carlos said, adding that “we also have a mentoring program that enables LGBTI employees and others who have an interest to connect with experienced colleagues and promote knowledge-sharing between mentors and mentees. Mentoring provides access to coaching, information and leadership for additional perspectives and holistic development.”

Related to this, “we have regular SOGIE and inclusion awareness trainings scheduled for all our employees.”

Thirdly, “we are committed in fostering the spirit of community through our FLAG (Friends, Lesbians and Gays) and allies community in the Philippines. This community of employees, supported by Accenture leadership, is in charge of driving activities within and outside the company.”

Carlos said that the company has “over 25% of our population declared as allies of LGBTI.” And “to keep our communities engaged, we organize talks, seminars, networking functions, outreach programs, awareness campaigns, and peer support initiatives, all-year round, to further inclusion in the workplace.”

CONTINUITY RE INCLUSIVITY

Asked about Accenture position – and even plans – to help the LGBTQIA community re: pushing for anti-discrimination bill/law in the Philippines, pushing for marriage equality; and pushing for gender recognition law in the country, Carlos said that “Accenture is not able to comment on pending legislation. What we can do, for our part, is to continue fostering inclusivity, embracing diversity and promoting equality in the workplace. Hopefully, our efforts will inspire others to do the same.”

Carlos added: “To influence LGBTI inclusion in a country where Accenture operates, it finds opportunities to interact with industry associations where it can participate, share thought leadership, and allow employees to broaden their network.”

Accenture is a member of the Philippine Financial Inter-Industry Pride (PFIP).

For the past few years, Accenture has been releasing its Getting To Equal (GTE) research, which highlights the role of a culture of equality in driving innovation in the workplace.

And “according to our latest GTE research, a culture of equality – a workplace environment where everyone can advance and thrive – is a powerful multiplier of innovation and growth. If businesses are able to create a work environment that encourages innovation and allows people to perform at their very best, employees will ultimately feel that they have an equal opportunity to contribute and build a successful career within that company,” Carlos said.

This is why for her, “creating this culture of equality… must start from the top – with C-suite executives and the Board exercising bold leadership and prioritizing comprehensive programs that will allow inclusion and diversity strategies to evolve and expand in support of employees’ needs. The (GTE) study found that LGBT employees’ innovation mindset — their willingness and ability to innovate — is seven times higher in the most-equal cultures than in the least equal ones. And when diversity factors are combined with a culture-of-equality, LGBT employees’ innovation mindset goes up to 20 times higher. This is what Accenture strives to accomplish as part of our goal to become the most inclusive and diverse employer in the IT-BPM industry in the Philippines.”

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Sexual harassment claims by less feminine women perceived as less credible

Women who do not fit female stereotypes are less likely to be seen as victims of sexual harassment, and if they claim they were harassed, they are less likely to be believed.

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Women who do not fit female stereotypes are less likely to be seen as victims of sexual harassment, and if they claim they were harassed, they are less likely to be believed, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

“Sexual harassment is pervasive and causes significant harm, yet far too many women cannot access fairness, justice and legal protection, leaving them susceptible to further victimization and harm within the legal system,” said Cheryl Kaiser, PhD, of the University of Washington and a co-author of the study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. “Our research found that a claim was deemed less credible and sexual harassment was perceived to be less psychologically harmful when it targeted a victim who was less attractive or did not act according to the stereotype of a typical woman.”

Sexual harassment is a widespread social problem with a broad range of harmful consequences, including decreased engagement with and performance in work and school, worse mental and physical health, and increased economic instability, according to Kaiser. 

“Perceiving sexual harassment involves noticing a behavior that might qualify as harassment and linking that behavior to gender-based group membership,” said co-author Bryn Bandt-Law, a doctoral student at the University of Washington. “We wanted to understand what happens when the victim does not look or act like a stereotypical member of that gender-based group.”

In Western societies, stereotypical women tend to be perceived as attractive, thin, relatively young and dressing in a feminine way. Stereotypically feminine hobbies include shopping, yoga or watching romantic movies, rather than stereotypically masculine hobbies such as fishing, contact sports or watching violent action movies. 

The researchers conducted a series of 11 multi-method experiments, involving more than 4,000 total participants, designed to investigate the effect a victim’s fit to the concept of a typical woman had on participants’ view of sexual harassment and the consequences of that mental association.

In five of the experiments, participants read scenarios in which women either did or did not experience sexual harassment. Participants then assessed the extent to which these women fit with the idealized image of women, either by drawing what they thought the woman might look like or selecting from a series of photos. Across all the experiments, participants perceived the targets of sexual harassment as more stereotypical than those who did not experience harassment.

In the next four experiments, participants were shown ambiguous sexual harassment scenarios, such as a boss inquiring about a woman’s dating life. These scenarios were paired with descriptions or photos of women who were either stereotypical or not. The participants then rated the likelihood that the incident constituted sexual harassment. 

“We found that participants were less likely to label these ambiguous scenarios as sexual harassment when the targets were non-stereotypical women compared with stereotypical women, despite the fact that both stereotypical and non-stereotypical targets experienced the same incident,” said Jin Goh, PhD, of Colby College and another author of the study.

The final two experiments found that sexual harassment claims were viewed as less credible and the harassment less likely to be recognized as psychologically harmful when the accuser adhered less to the female stereotype, even though the claims were identical.

“Our findings demonstrate that non-stereotypical women who are sexually harassed may be vulnerable to unjust and discriminatory treatment when they seek legal recourse,” said Bandt-Law. “If women’s nonconformity to feminine stereotypes biases perceptions of their credibility and harm caused by harassment, as our results suggest, it could prevent non-stereotypical women who are sexually harassed from receiving the civil rights protections afforded to them by law.”  

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Emotionally neglected or severely sexually abused girls report riskier sexual behavior

A noteworthy finding was that adolescents categorized as having had moderate emotional neglect without abuse, as well as those categorized as having experienced severe sexual abuse, reported more sexual risk behaviors than peers who reported low maltreatment. Those with severe sexual abuse also reported the fastest increase of sexually risky behaviors over time.

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Girls who are emotionally neglected or severely sexually abused early in their lives report riskier sexual behaviors during adolescence, Mount Sinai researchers report. The findings highlight the need–and suggest the potential for tailored approaches–to promote healthy sexual development in vulnerable populations.

The researchers identified four distinct patterns of neglect and sexual abuse in low-income, predominantly Black and/or Latina girls and young women that led to distinct trajectories of risky sexual behavior during adolescence. Their findings were published in Child Development in January.

The study was the first of its kind to identify categories of maltreatment among adolescent girls of color in an urban setting that correspond with measurable changes in sexual behavior as they get older. The four categories are low maltreatment, moderate emotional neglect only, severe physical and emotional abuse, and severe sexual abuse.

The study examined how different categories of maltreatment were related to changes in risky sexual behaviors between ages 13 and 23. Risky sexual behaviors included not using condoms, having five or more lifetime partners, having sex in return for money, having sex with someone known to be infected with a sexually transmitted disease, having a partner at least five years older than themselves, and having sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

A noteworthy finding was that adolescents categorized as having had moderate emotional neglect without abuse, as well as those categorized as having experienced severe sexual abuse, reported more sexual risk behaviors than peers who reported low maltreatment. Those with severe sexual abuse also reported the fastest increase of sexually risky behaviors over time.

The girls who experienced moderate emotional neglect, which is the most common form of child maltreatment, may develop riskier behaviors than their peers who were not neglected because emotional neglect may interfere with the development of a secure bond with a parent and the self-esteem that bond produces; the lack of these may precipitate the onset and risky patterns of sexual behavior during middle adolescence, according to the study. Contrary to other research, the study did not find different sexual behaviors between girls and young women who reported severe physical and emotional abuse and those in the low-maltreatment group.

Given that sexually risky behavior often increases in adolescence and decelerates in young adulthood, effective sexual health intervention programs must be designed and implemented earlier in adolescence, particularly among youth with a history of maltreatment, the researchers say. The results from this longitudinal study can inform tailored prevention and intervention efforts, and clinical diagnostic tools, that recognize the different types of neglect and abuse in adolescents and young adults to meet their individual needs in a developmentally appropriate manner.

According to Li Niu, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in Environmental Medicine and Public Health, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai: “The larger society needs to recognize crucial social forces, such as stigma and victim-blaming, that affect girls’ sexual development, and work together to address factors such as gender inequalities and stereotypes.”

This study measured self-reported childhood maltreatment among 882 sexually active adolescents and young adults every six months between the ages of 13 and 25. The participants were enrolled in an ongoing human papillomavirus surveillance study at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center and were recruited on a rolling basis from 2007 to 2016.

The researchers believe that one outcome from the study could be that primary care physicians conduct interviews with girls about neglect and abuse to identify possible interventions. In addition, the study points to a need for further research into how details such as the relationship of a perpetrator of abuse or the chronicity of the maltreatment, might play in sexually risky behavior.

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Efforts to increase sexual orientation acceptance can address LGBTQ youth suicide

Interventions aimed at increasing sexual orientation acceptance from supportive adults and peers have strong potential to address the public health burden of LGBTQ youth suicide.

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Interventions aimed at increasing sexual orientation acceptance from supportive adults and peers have strong potential to address the public health burden of LGBTQ youth suicide.

This is according to a study – titled: “Association of Sexual Orientation Acceptance with Reduced Suicide Attempts Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning Youth” – by Amy E. Green, Myeshia Price-Feeney and Samuel H. Dorison and published in LGBT Health.

The researchers noted the relationship between sexual orientation acceptance from others and suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth. So to look into this closely, they analyzed data from a 2018 cross-sectional survey of LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13 and 24 years across the US. Youth reported sexual orientation acceptance levels from parents, other relatives, school professionals, health care professionals, friends, and classmates to whom who they were “out.” Adjusted logistic regression analyses were used to examine the association between sexual orientation acceptance and a past-year suicide attempt.

They found that all forms of peer and adult acceptance were associated with reduced reports of a past-year suicide attempt, with the strongest associations found for acceptance from parents (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 0.52) and straight/heterosexual friends (aOR = 0.54).

Youth who reported high levels of acceptance from any adult had nearly 40% (aOR = 0.61) lower odds of a past-year suicide attempt compared with LGBTQ peers with little to no acceptance. Youth with high levels of acceptance from any peer also had significantly lower odds of reporting a past-year suicide attempt (aOR = 0.55). These relationships remained significant even after controlling for the impact of each form of acceptance, suggesting unique associations with suicide risk for both peer and adult acceptance.

For the researchers, therefore, interventions aimed at increasing sexual orientation acceptance from supportive adults and peers should be considered as these have strong potential to address the public health burden of LGBTQ youth suicide.

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Childhood neglect leaves generational imprint

Early life experiences can have an outsized effect on brain development and neurobiological health.

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Early life experiences can have an outsized effect on brain development and neurobiological health. New research is showing that those effects can be passed down to subsequent generations, reporting that the infant children of mothers who had experienced childhood emotional neglect displayed altered brain circuitry involved in fear responses and anxiety.

The study appears in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, published by Elsevier.

“These results show that our brain development is not only shaped by what happens in our own life, but is also impacted by things that happened to our parents before we were even conceived,” said lead author of the study, Cassandra Hendrix, PhD, Department of Pyschology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.

Dr. Hendrix and her colleagues studied 48 Black mother-infant pairs starting in the first trimester of pregnancy. Mothers were given a questionnaire to assess childhood trauma (experiences of early abuse or neglect). The mothers were also evaluated for current, prenatal stress levels, and for anxiety and depression. One month after birth, infants underwent a brain scan using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging, a non-invasive technology that could be used while the babies slept naturally.

The researchers focused on brain connections between the amygdala, which is central to processing fearful emotions, and two other brain regions: the prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex. Both areas play a key role in regulating emotions. Babies whose mothers experienced childhood emotional neglect had stronger functional connections between the amygdala and the cortical regions.

After controlling for mothers’ current stress levels, the researchers found that the more emotional neglect a mother had experienced during her own childhood, the more strongly her baby’s amygdala was connected to the frontal cortical regions. Physical abuse or neglect of the mother were not correlated with the stronger connectivity. The findings suggest that childhood emotional neglect has intergenerational effects on brain structure and function.

The significance of the stronger connection remains unclear, said Dr. Hendrix. “The neural signature we observed in the 1-month-old infants of emotionally neglected mothers may be a mechanism that leads to increased risk for anxiety, or it could be a compensatory mechanism that promotes resilience in case the infant has less supportive caregivers. In either case, emotional neglect from a mother’s own childhood seems to leave behind a neural signature in her baby that may predispose the infant to more readily detect threat in the environment almost from birth. Our findings highlight the importance of emotional support early in life, even for subsequent generations.”

This is, of course, an issue that is of importance to the LGBTQIA community, considering LGBTQIA people may have difficult family relationships.

In June 2020, for instance, a global report noted that family members are often the main perpetrators of abuse against lesbians, bisexual women and transgender people.

In the Philippines, the issue is just as complicated. For instance, in December 2020, after seeing abuses experienced by LGBTQIA youth even in the hands of family members, Atty. Clara Rita Padilla, who helms EnGendeRights, Inc., said that “LGBTQIA people in GBV/IPV/FV ought to know that their situation can be managed; they just need to – first – not fear seeking for help.”

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Community-based programs reduce sexual violence – study

We know that young men often need job skills and opportunities to discuss healthy relationships and healthier manhood. Combining these two proven approaches seems particularly promising and necessary.

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Through small, neighborhood classes, sexual violence can be reduced among teenage boys living in areas of concentrated disadvantage.

This is according to a study published in JAMA; a culmination of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clinical trial spanning 20 racially segregated neighborhoods in the Pittsburgh area to evaluate two violence prevention programs. The proportion of youth reporting the use of sexual or partner violence in their relationships decreased in both groups by about 12%.

“To accomplish something like this requires nurturing community partnerships,” said study senior author Elizabeth Miller, M.D., Ph.D., chief of adolescent and young adult medicine at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. “In each of these neighborhoods, we worked with community members to facilitate the programs with an eye toward sustainability.”

Between 2015-2017, nearly 900 boys between the ages of 13-19 enrolled in these small group programs, which were run by community leaders from each neighborhood.

Half of the sites were randomized to receive job readiness training and the other half were assigned a curriculum called “Manhood 2.0,” which is based on Promundo’s “Program H” in Brazil. The “H” stands for hombres.

“Manhood 2.0 engages young men in questioning harmful ideas about manhood,” said Promundo-US Chief Executive Officer Gary Barker. “It calls men into being part of the solution to ending violence in intimate partner relationships and helps them see the benefits to healthier manhood in their own lives.”

Manhood 2.0 was adapted for young men in US urban communities, but the core message remains the same: challenging gender norms that foster violence against women and unhealthy sexual relationships.

For young men enrolled in Manhood 2.0, the use of partner violence–including physical or verbal abuse, sexual harassment, sexual coercion and cyber abuse–dropped from 64% at baseline to 52% in the months following the program. For those who received job training, self-reported sexual violence dropped from 53% to 41%.

That was a surprise. Miller said she expected job training to have a positive impact in other areas of life, but not violence towards women.

“Job skills training is a structural intervention, grounded in economic justice,” Miller said. “Perhaps this resonated and resulted in young men using less violence because they felt more hopeful about their future.”

Next, the researchers hope to study whether combining Manhood 2.0 with job readiness training might have an even greater impact on intimate partner and sexual violence than either curriculum alone.

“We know that young men often need job skills and opportunities to discuss healthy relationships and healthier manhood,” Barker said. “Combining these two proven approaches seems particularly promising and necessary.”

Additional authors on the study include Kelley Jones, Ph.D., Alison Culyba, M.D., Ph.D., Taylor Paglisotti, M.P.H., Namita Dwarakanath, Michael Massof, M.P.A., and Zoe Feinstein of UPMC Children’s Hospital; Katie Ports, Ph.D., at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dorothy Espelage, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Julie Pulerwitz, Sc.D., of the Population Council; Aapta Garg, M.A., and Jane Kato-Wallace, M.P.H., of Promundo-US; and Kaleab Z. Abebe, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

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Effects of head trauma from intimate partner violence largely unrecognized

One in three women will experience intimate partner violence (IPV) in her lifetime, and studies suggest that anywhere between 30% to 90% of women who experience physical abuse at the hands of an intimate partner experience head trauma.

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Fact: The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one in three women will experience intimate partner violence (IPV) in her lifetime, and studies suggest that anywhere between 30% to 90% of women who experience physical abuse at the hands of an intimate partner experience head trauma. Yet not enough data is being collected to understand how this head trauma affects cognitive and psychological functioning as well as the underlying neural effects.

This is why Carrie Esopenko, assistant professor in the Department of Rehabilitation and Movement Sciences in the Rutgers School of Health Professions, looked into this as part of an Intimate Partner Violence Working Group studying intimate partner violence-related head trauma as part of the Enhancing NeuroImaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis (ENIGMA) Consortium, an international, multidisciplinary group that seeks to provide a collaborative framework for large-scale analysis and neuroimaging and genetic studies in patient groups. The data was published in the journal Brain Imaging and Behavior.

What is the risk for traumatic brain injury in those who suffer abuse?

Although IPV occurs at any age, it is most prevalent in the 18- to 24-year-old age group, and older adults are also vulnerable. Males and females experience IPV, but violence against women tends to result in more severe and chronic injuries. Due to the high degree of physical aggression associated with this type of abuse, there is a significant risk for traumatic brain injury caused by blunt force trauma, being violently shaken or pushed.

Another significant concern is anoxic brain injury, which can occur due strangulation or attempts to impede normal breathing. The prevalence of head injuries in women who have sustained IPV is estimated to be between 30% and 92%, with a high proportion of these women reporting injuries as a result of strangulation. It is estimated that more than 50% of women exposed to IPV suffer multiple brain injuries due to abuse-related head trauma.

What are the consequences of such injuries?

Past research suggests that IPV can impact cognitive and psychological functioning as well as have neurological effects. These seem to be compounded in those who suffer a brain injury as a result of trauma to the head, face, neck or body due to physical and/or sexual violence. However, the understanding of the neurobehavioral and neurobiological effects of head trauma is limited.

Studies suggest that women who experience IPV report cognitive dysfunction, including impaired reaction time, response inhibition, working memory, attention and a range of other cognitive, behavioral and emotional difficulties. They often report a high degree of mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, suicidal ideation and PTSD. There is evidence that IPV-related brain injury also alters brain function and structure.

What is unknown about traumatic brain injury in victims of domestic violence?

While research on traumatic brain injury in other populations, like athletes and the military, has dramatically increased over the past two decades, research on intimate partner-related brain injury is vastly understudied.

“We need to know more about the effect of sex, socioeconomic status, race and/or ethnicity, age at first exposure – including childhood trauma, duration and severity of IPV exposure, and psychiatric disorders on the neural, cognitive and psychological outcomes associated with IPV-related brain injuries. Knowing this can help us to predict outcomes and help personalize treatment and intervention strategies,” Esopenko said.

IPV is an issue that also affects members of the LGBTQIA community.

In the Philippines in December 2020, Atty. Clara Rita Padilla, who helms EnGendeRights, Inc., recalled helping remove LGBTQIA people from the abusive situations. And so for her, LGBTQIA people in GBV/IPV/FV ought to know that their situation can be managed; they just need to – first – not fear seeking for help.

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