18th April 2019

"Masculinity isn't about dominance and power, it's about care and respect"

David Owen, Managing Director for Civica’s Justice Services team is very passionate about safe and respectful workplaces. He has seen, firsthand, the positive culture changing effect from encouraging open and honest conversations between all employees about what it actually means to be safe; how we can identify signs of violence and harassment in the home or the workplace, and how our everyday behaviours might support “gender norming”.

Coming from a background of working in the policing and justice sectors, David says a key life-changing moment came in 2016 when he attended a White Ribbon seminar for a previous employer.  The then White Ribbon CEO Libby Davies asked the audience “What are you going to do?”, and it was then that David knew he could use his senior management position to instigate change. 

the standards you walk past are the standards that you accept

As a White Ribbon Ambassador, David promotes the engagement of men, gender equality and respectful relationships to prevent men’s violence against women in both the workplace and the home.  He says, “the standards you walk past are the standards that you accept”, meaning that every time anyone accepts bullying, sexual harassment, or any other inappropriate behaviour they are endorsing it.  Staying silent should not be an option.  A recent White Ribbon survey on sexual harassment in the workplaces revealed that in 69% of cases witnesses to workplace sexual harassment did not try to intervene.  Furthermore, only 18% of people who experience workplace sexual assault sought advice or support.  For David, these statistics are unacceptable, and by embarking upon the rigorous White Ribbon Workplace Accreditation, he hopes that all employees will be empowered to speak up against inappropriate behaviour, and to feel properly supported if they are the recipient of violence in the workplace or the home. 

Men calling out bad behaviour

Men challenging other men is central to White Ribbon, and as a husband and father to a daughter, David asks the question to men displaying such behaviour: “How would you feel if it was your family member being treated this way?” This is a powerful way of asking men to reflect on their behaviour, making it personal and close to home.  Not all men use violence and the majority are respectful and loving.  Men speaking to other men about violence against women is a powerful catalyst for change.

Ultimately for David, masculinity isn’t about dominance and power, it is about care and respect

We can all play a part in eliminating violence against women

David says that all of us can think about how our everyday behaviour supports a gendered workplace that leads to a culture of disrespect. For example, why is it often women - of various seniorities -  who are the ones cleaning up after work functions or emptying the dishwasher?  Should we really be shrugging off, ignoring, or laughing at sexist comments or language from colleagues?  How can we rethink “workplace safety” to be more than making sure that the smoke alarms work? 

There was a time when David didn’t feel comfortable challenging such behaviour from his colleagues, or even his friends at the pub. However, with the training and guidance from White Ribbon he is confident in calling out inappropriate behaviour and doesn’t hesitate to do so when he sees it.  And from this he has seen work cultures change dramatically, resulting in more women actively seeking positions in companies that are regarded as safe and welcoming and more women taking leadership positions.

Where to from here

As the very beginning of Civica’s journey towards a White Ribbon Accredited Workplace, an awareness and training campaign will be rolled out over the coming months. It is hoped that all employees are actively engaged in the process both formally, but also informally by having open conversations about what violence against women means to them, and how our everyday behaviour supports or hinders a safe and respectful workplace and gender equality.



Four positive steps to prevent violence against women and promote gender equality in public and private life

  1. CHALLENGE condoning of violence against women
  2. PROMOTE women’s independence and decision-making
  3. OPPOSE gender stereotypes and roles
  4. STRENGTHEN positive, equal and respectful relationships