We know that violence against women, including sexual harassment in workplaces is preventable. By promoting equal, safe, inclusive and respectful workplaces we can change the story the statistics tell us – that one in three Australians have experienced sexual harassment at work in the last five years. With only about 20% of severe cases of gendered violence being reported, many incidents go unnoticed, with women either just leaving jobs or changing teams.

What is Gendered Violence in the Workplace?

Gendered violence encompasses a range of harmful behaviours directed at individuals based on their gender.

In the workplace, this can manifest in various forms – unwanted touching, lewd comments, sexist jokes, sharing explicit imagery and even physical assault, including rape and other forms of physical violence.

There are also behaviours that people in some organisations might find quite normalised and therefore surprising to see them as falling within the category of violence in the workplace.

These are subtle microaggressions that undermine an individual’s ability to thrive, such as speaking over women in meetings and assuming they will handle administrative tasks like notetaking or making coffee. These actions continue to reinforce gender stereotypes and continuously undermine women’s ability to function effectively.

Why It Is Important to Address Gendered Violence?

If we look at the evidence, it shows us that the primary driver for sexual harassment and violence against women is gender inequality and a disrespect for women. This typically stems from the underlying idea that somehow women are less – less effective, less productive and less worthy of the same level of respect and care and concern as others in the workplace.

The ability for all employees to feel safe and respected at work is fundamental to their well-being. It also makes sound business sense to address it, for reasons relating to productivity and retention – a safe and respectful workplace leads to higher productivity and lower turnover rates.

When workplaces show leadership in addressing gendered violence it not only positively impacts their organisations now, but also contributes to the generational change required to eliminate violence against women.

Finally, businesses have legal responsibilities, with a positive duty to provide a safe work environment free from harassment and discrimination.

What steps can organisations take to prevent gendered violence?

Organisations can implement several strategies to prevent gendered violence and promote a safe and inclusive workplace:

  1. Commitment from leadership: Leaders must openly commit to gender equality and actively promote respectful behaviour.
  2. Training and awareness: Regular training sessions on gender equality and respectful behaviour can help educate employees about the importance of these issues.
  3. Policies and reporting systems: Implement clear policies against harassment and discrimination, and ensure there are effective, confidential reporting systems in place.
  4. Support structures: Provide support for victims, including access to counselling and other resources.
  5. Promote gender equality: Ensure equal opportunities for all employees, including flexible work arrangements and parental leave for both men and women.

Call to action

Creating a safe and respectful workplace does not happen by chance, it requires a concerted effort from everyone.

Leaders can start by having open conversations with their teams about respectful behaviour. There are other actions too, for example, reviewing and updating policies, utilising feedback from culture surveys, as well as ensuring they include relevant questions to establish a baseline and better understand the issues. They should also be curious and identify what’s working and what isn’t.

At the individual level, actions like raising specific concerns about areas where employees feel unsafe and safety measures need to be improved, such as lighting around car parks, can also help create a safer environment.

By addressing gendered violence in the workplace, we not only create safer and more inclusive environments but also contribute to solving a larger societal issue. Together, we can build workplaces where everyone feels valued, respected, and able to thrive.


For more information and resources, visit Our Watch’s Workplace Equality and Respect page.

If you need support, the 1-800-RESPECT hotline is available, as are your local Employee Assistance Programs.