Our research shows that Women’s feelings about, and lived experience, of safety needs attention.

Women in our research were asked how much they valued feeling safe, and unsurprisingly nearly all women highly valued it (88%). Of those 88% of women less than half said they were totally achieving feeling safe. If we put that together with some of the responses to questions that we would traditionally think of as being “safety” type questions, we build the picture. Nearly half of women asked (44%) know a woman who endures domestic verbal abuse/bullying, 40% know a woman who has been raped, 30% or so know a woman who has experienced intimate partner violence.

If we consider the national context for these responses they make sense. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of intimate partner violence in the OECD, most incidences of which are not reported to police (76%). Of the women who are murdered in New Zealand each year, most (76%) are killed by men they know or are in a relationship with.

The family violence death review committee suggested the following needs to change to improve women and children’s safety:

  • “There is a need to stop asking victims to keep themselves safe from abusive partners - practitioners need to proactively make sure victims are safe
  • practitioners need to provide long-term assistance to victims rather than one-off safety advice
  • there must be more focus on the person using violence, in addition to the victim – changing the behaviours of those using violence is the most effective way to prevent family violence
  • violence must be recognised as being not just physical – it is also carried out through control, coercion, and intimidation. These behaviours trap victims.”

In our research women highlighted some areas where women indicated they needed society to improve in terms of safety:

  • 58% do not think cat-calling and street whistling at women is harmless
  • 45% feel there is still a need for a women’s movement
  • 65% are greatly concerned about how the media stereotypes women and girls (gender stereotypes are a key factor in gender inequity, power imbalances between men and women, and men and women and transgender people, and subsequent gender violence)

In addition, to physical safety, there is value in exploring women’s experiences of safety in the workplace. Feeling safe at work can encompass being able to get a job based on your skill set and ability (64% of women though men got jobs over women simply due to being a man), and then do that job without being treated to discrimination based on gender (64% of women felt it is hard for women with kids to be considered equal in the workplace), it can include feeling supported during challenging personal times (58% of the women asked thought women could be better supported in the workplace when they were going through menopause).

It would seem there are opportunities for socially minded businesses to explore women’s feelings of safety more generally, and to consider their role in encouraging and actively building a supportive environment for gender equality in society generally. With respect to specific workplaces, again the opportunity exists for workplaces to build an environment in which women feel safe in their work and hence are maximally productive.

However this is not a conversation that should exclude men, rather the opportunity here is to make it about men, what are men doing? What can they do to create a more supportive environment, how will it improve their own experiences of the world and the workplace also? A clever communicator and strategist, looking at women’s safety, thinks about how to engage those who need to change not those who need the change to happen.