Violence against women: a personal, social and economic issue that can’t be ignored

Violence against women is not just a personal problem although too often it is a private one. It impacts individuals, families, friends and workplaces. It is a secret destroyer of productivity and a vicious cycle that can wrap women into dependency on the perpetrator.  

Approximately 1.4 million Australian women are living in an abusive relationship, or have done so in the past. Of these women, about 800,000 are in the paid workforce*. For many the workplace is their refuge.

I recently met, with the other members of the Male Champions of Change, two survivor advocates of domestic violence, Rosie Batty and Kristy McKeller. Their resolute courage in the face of such violence made it clear that domestic violence is a workplace issue

By 2021-22**, an estimated three-quarters of a million Australian women will experience and report violence, costing the Australian economy an estimated $15.6 billion which includes productivity related costs i.e. absenteeism and employer administrative costs such as employee replacement.

Domestic violence carries with it a stigma that makes it difficult for any woman to admit to her employer that her domestic relationship is abusive. Perhaps they see it as a failure – a lack of resilience or strength. It is neither. Or they believe their ‘private life’ is just that – private and should be kept out of the workplace. Perhaps they fear that if they reveal it to their employer, they may find an unsympathetic response, an embarrassed silence or shocked disbelief.

Because domestic and family violence is hidden from view managers are often unsure about
what to do when an employee discloses their abusive home life.

But violence against women does not always stay at home. It follows women into the workplace, through email, phone calls or physical confrontation by the perpetrator.

Employees who have experienced domestic violence report violence affects their capacity to get to work (including by physical injury or restraint, hiding car keys or failing to care for children).Their work performance is impacted, with employees feeling anxious, distracted and unwell, having to take time off and being late to work.

Economic factors are the largest predictor of whether a woman stays, leaves or goes back to an abusive relationship. So if, as employers, we do not proactively address the support we offer, then we become part of the problem.

Since 2013 I have been an active member of the Male Champions of Change (MCC). Male Champions of Change use their individual and collective leadership to elevate gender equality as an issue of national and international social and economic importance.

Last week, the MCC met with 750 leaders including 100 CEOs to share their experiences on how gender equality creates significant opportunities for Australian workplaces.

Violence against women is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality.

It is imperative that workplaces take positive action against domestic violence; to listen and respond with understanding to the significant impact it makes on women’s lives both at home and at work.

I urge all leaders to challenge their own workplace response and ‘step up’ with a strong well thought out compassionate approach that is not left to chance.

Male Champions of Change – Domestic and Family Violence

KPMG / Male Champions of Change

** Includes domestic violence and non-domestic sexual assault and is comprised of $7.6 billion in non-financial costs (pain, suffering and premature death) and $8 billion in financial costs


One thought on “Violence against women: a personal, social and economic issue that can’t be ignored

  1. Important recognition of the personal, societal and economic cost domestic violence imposes. Great callout by Gary for employers to focus what can be done in the workplace to support women experiencing such abuse. Gender inequality has many faces, and it takes courage and tenacity to address these head on. Keep talking about it so we can encourage and see change happen.

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