16 days of activism
The 25th of November marks the first day of the 16 Days of Activism for the elimination of violence against women and girls, an international campaign started in 1991 by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership. The campaign aims to raise awareness about violence against women as an enduring social problem that undermines communities and workplaces.
This year the campaign aims to harness the momentum of #Metoo through its theme ‘End gender-based violence in the world of work.’ By targeting the workplace and areas in which violence against women is perpetuated, the campaign aims to push for systemic change and create greater accountability.
The prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace is now a high-profile issue with increasing numbers of women coming forward. Over 70% of women reported having experienced or witnessed sexual harassment in the workplace in Scotland, with this figure rising to two thirds of women aged 18-24. Experiences range from unwelcome sexual comments to serious sexual assaults.
We also know that three quarters of women experiencing domestic abuse are targeted at work, and perpetrators of domestic abuse and stalking often use workplace resources such as phones and emails to threaten, harass or abuse their current or former partner, acquaintance or strangers. Perpetrator tactics such as sabotage, stalking and harassment at work affect women’s productivity, absenteeism and job retention.
Violence against women is a systematic and widespread human rights issue. The #MeToo movement has highlighted the magnitude of this issue and that women face significant barriers in coming forward about their experience. Most women (80%) who experience sexual harassment in the workplace will never report it due to fear of being blamed, not being believed or losing their job. Some women have stated that they have not come forward because they feel violence against women is so widespread and commonplace at work that there is no point in trying to challenge it. While other women have expressed their frustration with reporting procedures.
We know that in order to end violence against women in the workplace, changes must be made to promote women labour market equality. Violence against women is a cause and consequence of gender inequality and without addressing occupational segregation, toxic, male-oriented workplace culture, undervaluation of women’s work, lack of quality part-time and flexible roles, along with harmful attitude and stereotypes we cannot make progress to prevent violence against women in or outwith the workplace.
Our Equally Safe at Work employer accreditation programme pilot will support employers to enhance their policies and practices which are key to addressing the barriers that women face at work. It will also enable employers to better support employees who have experience gender-based violence and work towards creating an inclusive workplace culture that prevents violence against women.
This year’s theme of ending gender-based violence in the workplace for 16 days of activism has the opportunity to illustrate that this is a continuing issue that requires our action and we will continue to work with employers to support action on women’s inequality at work.