Monday, 17 November 2014

Hitting Home – can workplace culture lead to violence towards women?

Being a sponsor for todays “Breakfast with the Guys” event in Calgary, organized by the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS), acted as a timely reminder, the need for all of us to get involved in challenging abusive behaviours, whether this be at home, our community or the workplace. As a Champion of Great Leadership at Bluegem Learning and a father of two daughters, I see the need for leaders at all levels in organizations and the wider community to play their part in ending violence towards women.

As the majority of my work is spent with leaders in organization I am interested to learn if there is a correlation between the culture in the workplace and violence towards women.

A 2012 survey in Alberta found that 1 in 10 men said that it was acceptable for a man to hit a woman if she did something that makes him angry. And this startling statistic isn’t in isolation, on a wider scale across Canada Statistics Canada have previously revealed that:

 Half of all Canadian women have experienced physical or sexual violence, 

More than 3,000 women stay in shelters on a given night to escape abuse, 

Women are 11 times more likely to be victims of sexual offences,

Young women between the ages of 15-24 are particularly vulnerable to violent crime with the reported crime rate double that of women aged between 35- 44.

I found these statistics shocking, all the more so because they effect real people and are not simply statistics. So returning to my earlier question - can workplace culture lead to violence towards women?

Recent research in British Columbia has indicated that the culture of work camps, isolation, self medication through alcohol and/or drugs, can lead to a pressure cooker that can become destructive when that man returns home to his family. Is this isolated to work camps or is this pattern more wide spread across the workplace? Is it centred on professions with all male only teams and high levels of stress? The recent high profile cases involving Ray Rice and Jian Gomeshi indicate a more widespread problem, where unacceptable behaviour is at best ignored and at worst encouraged.

I don’t have the answers to these questions and as importantly what do we do about it. I’d be interested to learn others thoughts on this, from your experience is there a correlation between the culture in the workplace and violence towards women. Please feel free to leave me your comments.

ACWS rightly point out that men still hold the majority of leadership roles in organizations and can be powerful mentors to other men, boys and girls. It is time that these leaders stood up to the issue of violence towards women, it’s not enough to say nothing or do nothing in the hope that others will, as leaders we have an opportunity to speak out and should do so.

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