Founder and Director of Beyond Gender, Lin Surch, explores how workplace inclusion can help to tackle gendered violence in Australia.
In 1963—55 years ago—lesbian icon Lesley Gore released the ahead-of-her-time track “You Don’t Own Me”.
And last week, thousands of Australians gathered across the country in vigils in the wake of the brutal rape and murder of 22-year-old Eurydice Dixon, as a way to honour all victims of gendered violence.
During my talks, many LGBTIQ allies are often surprised to learn that homosexuality was declassified as a mental illness by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1990, yet marital rape only became illegal in the U.K a year later – in 1991. And this was only a decade after it became illegal for a man to rape his wife here in Australia.
Inequality, injustice, and gendered aggression is still multi-dimensional and systemic. Not only on our streets and in our homes, but it is also present in workplaces.
It can be more difficult to recognise at work, where it often plays out in microaggressions, via sexist or transphobic innuendo, through tone policing, and sometimes subtle slut shaming.
Diversity and inclusion initiatives to date have focused on women, Indigenous people, mature aged workers, LGBTIQ people, and other diversity streams. We are now seeing many organisations also adopting domestic violence training for staff, implementing policies to recognise risks.
Whilst all of these programs are incredibly valuable and play an important role in embedding positive change, the reality is they are simply no longer enough.
To speed up the rate of change, we should all work together to achieve change.
We can all play a part in stopping toxic behaviours and work cultures, and favour values of gentleness, fairness, empathy, and equality.
We can work to free ourselves from binary thinking and fear based hierarchal systems, which have been systematically blocking progress towards gender equality.
As WA Minister for Women’s Interests, Simone McGurk, so recently shared “Whether it’s in the boardroom, the clubroom, or the lunch room, in all of those places we want people to be having conversations and calling out offensive behaviour.”
As a gender diverse person, I would like to think all of us, every single one of us, regardless of our gender, will one day be able to live in a world that is free from violence. A world where we can walk in parks after dark, not fearing for our personal safety.
We can achieve this through sustained action, beginning with a series of conversations, and through compassionate leadership coaching. This should be complemented by interactive workplace training on the gender spectrum, building healthy relationships with ourselves and with others, and be based on empathy and empowerment.
These are courageous conversations, and it is up to us to be the change we want to see. We cannot sit back and not take part in this change. We owe it to ourselves, and to all of our beloved LGBTIQ community and allies, past, present, and future.
Come, change the system with me. But first, let us download that famous song by Lesley and turn up the volume for Eurydice, and for all women.
Lin Surch is Founder and Director of Beyond Gender, Australia’s national community based diversity consultancy firm, providing agile support to organisations who are navigating the ever changing world of inclusion.
Beyond Gender specialises in rethinking gender equality, LGBTIQ leadership, inclusion, and resilience, diverse faiths, sexualities, and genders, and spiritual EQ at work. For more information go to www.beyondgender.com.au