Genders at Work: exploring the role of workplace equality in preventing men’s violence against women (2013)

This report released by the White Ribbon Foundation examines the role of workplaces, and men in workplaces in particular, in preventing men’s violence against women.

The report begins by noting that men’s violence against women is a widespread social problem which requires urgent action. It highlights the need for preventative measures oriented to changing the social and structural conditions at the root of this violence, including through settings such as workplaces.

Men’s violence against women is a workplace issue. As well as being a blunt infringement of women’s rights, this violence imposes very substantial health and economic costs on workplaces and organisations.

If we are how to address how workplaces can be part of the solution, we must first address how they are part of the problem, in three ways. First, workplace gender inequalities – including unfair divisions of labour and power and norms of male dominance – contribute to women’s economic and social disadvantage and men’s privilege. Workplaces thus can intensify the wider gender inequalities in which violence against women flourishes. Second, the cultures of some workplaces encourage and institutionalise violence-supportive social norms. Women in these institutions or in contact with their members face greater greater risks of victimisation, and the male members are more likely than other men to tolerate and perpetrate violence. Third, workforces can contribute to violence against women through the ways in which they respond to employees who are victims of violence or its perpetrators.

Workplaces are increasingly prominent sites for violence prevention and intervention. While most strategies focus on responses to victimisation, a growing number of companies and organisations also engage in activities designed to prevent men’s violence against women. For example, in Australia, a recent workplace pilot study has been implemented by White Ribbon Australia. This Workplace Accreditation project identifies a range of criteria for workplaces to meet in order to qualify as a White Ribbon Australia Accredited workplace.

If the workplace is to have a real impact on preventing men’s violence against women, then efforts in part must address men. There are at seven overlapping strategies through which men at work can be engaged in change.

  1. Through face-to-face educational programs and social marketing, workplace-based strategies can raise men’s awareness of issues of gender inequality in general or men’s violence against women in particular.
  2. Workplaces can promote a culture of zero tolerance for sexist and disrespectful behaviour.
  3. Undermining established masculine norms and cultures is crucial to such efforts, and should include moves away from traditional models of masculine leadership.
  4. Men can be involved through their professional roles themselves.
  5. Men can be mobilised as advocates for change in workplaces, for example by running White Ribbon and other violence prevention campaigns at work.
  6. Men can challenge the structures and systems at work that produce inequality and exclusion, including by countering unconscious bias in recruitment and promotion, conducting gender audits, setting targets for women’s representation, and examining gendered interactions at work.
  7. Finally, workplaces can encourage men out of the paid workforce, adopting strategies for men to spend less time at work and more time involved in parenting and domestic work.

Workplace-based efforts to engage men in the prevention of men’s violence against women include attention to male leaders. ‘Buy-in’ by leaders and organisations is crucial in any program of workplace change, but this is particularly difficult when it involves unsettling the established links between management, masculinity, and privilege. Nevertheless, there are powerful examples of both individual men and men’s networks in workplaces acting as ‘champions’ of violence prevention in the workplace.

Ongoing patterns of workplace organisation and culture reinforce the unequal treatment of women and the unfair privileging of men. From working hours and structures, to recruitment, to employee care and advertising, workplaces have countless opportunities to choose either to reinforce the old ways or to take the path to a fairer and violence-free world. The challenge for workplaces is not knowing what to do to prevent violence against women – it is finding the will to do it.

For the full report, please click here (PDF).


Holmes, S., and M. Flood. (2013). Genders at Work: Exploring the role of workplace equality in preventing men’s violence against women. Sydney: White Ribbon Foundation.