RMIT experts are available to comment on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women.

In recognition of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25 November, 2021), which marks the beginning of ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence,’ experts from RMIT University are available to comment on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted violence against women, gender-based inequality in the workplace and at home and the important lessons we can take into a post-lockdown world.

Gender inequality at work and at home

Dr Fiona MacDonald is a Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow in the School of Management at RMIT University (0437 301 065 or fiona.macdonald@rmit.edu.au)

Topics: gender equality in work and employment

“Women took on a disproportionate share of childcare and schooling in couple households during COVID lockdowns. In our research, women’s careers and economic independence came in last as family priorities.

“The experience of lockdowns exposed how, in one and a half earner households, it continues to be women who have to flex and adapt their work — and sometimes abandon it altogether — to accommodate changing family needs and the demands of men’s full-time jobs.

“The lockdown experience has shown that hybrid arrangements can work for all sorts of jobs and can have positive effects for organisations, for employees and for families. However, too often, commitment and high performance are seen as requiring long hours work. We need to break down long hours work cultures to successfully address gender inequalities in workplaces and households.

“Flexibility has enabled many women to participate in paid work but it needs to be available much more widely across all types of jobs and it needs to be available for men.

“Flexible and hybrid work arrangements alone are inadequate if women are to participate equally. Affordable childcare is essential, as is addressing the gendered undervaluation of much of the paid work that women undertake in the care economy.”

Netflix drama Maid puts spotlight on gender-based violence and inequality

Professor Lisa French is the Dean, School of Media and Communication, RMIT University (0407 682 341 or lisa.french@rmit.edu.au)

Topics: women in film and television, gender equality and women’s participation in media

“A series like Maid further validates why we need more women working in film and television, so that these critically important stories are told and seen in the mainstream.

“Maid captures a female point of view and you get to see the world and the journey through the lead characters’ eyes. It therefore speaks to female experience, which is essential for inclusion.

“It is vital to moving forward to eliminate violence against women that these stories are told. It is also important to creating understanding that this violence continues, that workplaces aren’t always safe and equal, and that women continue to undertake the bulk of domestic work.

“Film and television has significant influence and so it is a responsibility that creators and educators have to ensure it is gender sensitive.

“It is critical that how women experience the world is captured on the screen as it can promote social cohesion and have an impact in moving people to support social issues such as opposing violence against women.”

Staff enforcing vaccine mandates at risk of gender-based violence

Distinguished Professor Sara Charlesworth is the Director of RMIT’s Centre for People, Organisation and Work and Professor of Gender, Work and Regulation in the School of Management, RMIT University (0412 889 122 or sara.charlesworth@rmit.edu.au)

Topics: gender and care policy, care workers

“We know that during COVID, frontline staff in supermarkets copped extraordinary amounts of abuse, which, in many instances, given the large majority of women workers, was a form of gender-based violence. We also saw similar abuse towards nurses and care workers.

“As other retail and hospitality opens up here in Victoria, with vaccine mandates in place, these workers are going to continue to be put at risk of abuse and violence.

“Everyone has a right to fair and equal wages and the right to safe conditions at work. The value of work, health and safety regulation over employment or anti-discrimination regulation, is that it makes it very clear that it is the employer’s duty to prevent abuse and harassment from happening and proactively create the conditions for safety at work.

“However, line managers need to know and put these obligations into practice, and workers need to know their rights to a safe workplace. There is a huge education piece around workers’ rights to a workplace free of abuse and harassment.”

COVID-19 highlights need for more support services for domestic violence

Elena Campbell is Associate Director of Research, Advocacy and Policy at RMIT’s Centre for Innovative Justice (0448 038 177 or elenaeve.campbell@rmit.edu.au)

Topics: family violence, family violence reform, women’s experiences with the criminal justice system

“The Centre for Innovative Justice is involved in an important project looking at experiences and system responses during COVID.

“The issue that is already emerging is the need for people experiencing family and domestic violence to be able to seek help through any service doorway, given that so many services were overwhelmed during this time.

“This requires a huge up-skilling across the human service sector and a consistent understanding of family and domestic violence risk across different service contexts.

 “Australia must stop thinking that we can address this issue with budget top ups and piecemeal announcements. We need a wholesale rethink on the extent to which we invest in the protection of women and children — in housing, in support, in legal services, in recovery — and we need to commit to this investment on an ongoing basis.

“It is also time for significant investment in services which work with perpetrators. Without secure accommodation, without services to address co-occurring issues, and without sufficient funding for change-focused interventions, people using family and domestic violence will pose a greater risk to their family members.”