Workplace Equality and Respect

Our Watch, the national agency to prevent violence against women, has recently launched a new set of tools and resources to help workplaces prevent violence.

The Workplace Equality and Respect website aims to empower organisations to promote gender equality and respect across their workplaces. The website outlines five standards that workplaces can strive to meet which are about having an internal culture and the right policies and leadership to support gender equality. An example of how a workplace might change their culture, for example, might be financial institutions using the tools on WIRE’s Women+Money site to increase gender equity in their workplaces.

Most of us spend a large amount of time at work, and so our workplaces can have a big influence over our professional and personal lives, and our society more broadly. As such, workplaces are the perfect place to tackle the problem of violence against women and increase gender equity. Workplace Equality and Respect is all about giving workplaces the standards, processes and tools to make changes that will support progress towards gender equality in our society.

The five standards outlined in the Workplace Equality and Respect process are: commitment, conditions, culture, support and core business.

The process walks you through the key steps you can take to assess your organisation, identify priority areas and implement actions to embed gender equality in your workplace. It explains how to set the foundation; understand the scope of your workplace; develop solid organisational support from leadership and staff; and build the understanding and capacity of key staff.

Why we need to act now

Workplaces need to take active steps to promote and normalise gender equality and challenge sexism and discrimination because:

  • Violence, harassment and sexism occurs in workplaces. Workplaces have a responsibility to ensure all staff are safe in the workplace and an interest in minimising legal risks in relation to equal opportunity, discrimination and harassment.
  • Violence that occurs at home or in the community can also have impacts at work. Workplaces need to understand and appropriately respond to violence that is experienced by employees outside of work, such as family violence.
  • Workplace structures and cultures influence gender inequality. Every workplace conversation, policy and action can either reinforce or challenge gender inequality and the attitudes, norms and practices that drive violence against women.

Achieving gender equality and preventing violence against women is not just about changing individuals – it’s about changing the society and culture in which individuals develop their attitudes and learn about acceptable behaviour. Through an organisational change process workplaces can create an environment where women are not only safe but also respected, valued and treated as equals at work, at home and in their communities.

The toolkit in action

North Melbourne Football Club

One example of how the toolkit can be used comes from what may be an unexpected place, the North Melbourne Football Club, which implemented a five-year Gender Equality Action Plan in 2018. The aim of the plan was to increase gender equality within all aspects of the club. It is the first sporting club in Australia to do this.

The plan includes 10 standards that are aligned with the club’s existing values of the “Shinboner Spirit”: real, bold, never beaten and belonging. Under each standard, specific and measurable actions have been prioritised to shift attitudes, behaviours and beliefs to create an inclusive, safe and welcoming environment for all. Some of the standards include strengthening recruitment practices, challenging attitudes that perpetuate sexism, increasing positive representation of women, creating a welcoming environment and sharing this knowledge with others.

Some of the practical steps of the plan include: annual training for all board members, players and staff, flexible working conditions and a minimum target of 40 per cent female staff and members within the five years. With the introduction of North Melbourne’s AFL Women’s team this year the Action Plan could not be more timely.

At the launch of the plan, North Melbourne Managing Director and CEO Carl Dilena said:

There are systemic challenges facing women and gender inequality is a daily experience throughout our society. It is time to change the story, for all women. Sport and the AFL in particular play an important role in shaping Australian culture, our beliefs and our behaviours.  Accordingly, they provide an important platform for driving behavioural change.  North Melbourne wants to play a lead role in driving such change.


A completely different example of the toolkit in use is Equality@Work, a partnership between the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health and Mercy Health. Equality@Work is a workplace gender equality project to prevent violence against women before it occurs. Given the culturally diverse nature of the Mercy Health workforce, this means recognising and addressing how gender and social inequality disproportionately affect staff from migrant backgrounds.

While many Australian workplaces have designed and implemented gender equality action plans, Equality@Work is the first workplace initiative that specifically engages migrant women workers to better understand and address their needs. The program aims to reduce the barriers migrant women face in obtaining leadership roles within the organisation.

Where can I find these resources?

The Standards, tools and guide to the organisational change process are all live on a new website that anyone can access for free. Our Watch acknowledges the Victorian Government’s support of this important work and we encourage you to visit the Workplace Equality and Respect website to learn more about how workplaces can help create an Australia where women are safe, equal and valued.

WIRE’s Women + Money website also has resources to help you increase gender equity in the workplace.


Stay updated

Subscribe to our monthly community and professional newsletters! Stay in the loop with our upcoming events, project activities, resources and support groups for women, non-binary and gender diverse people.