Starts With Us aims to support and encourage legal and justice professionals and organisations to take action to prevent violence against women. The project is for everyone working in legal and justice professions – including lawyers, judiciary, administrative staff, paralegals, policy advisers, legal educators, court staff and more. It is funded by the Victorian Government’s Free from Violence strategy and is part of a state-wide coordinated effort to prevent violence against women.
We invited responses from people working across the sector to tell us about sexism and gender inequity they have experienced or observed. Respondents to the survey described varying levels of sexism in their workplaces, ranging from gender stereotyping to sexist remarks which humiliated and denigrated women’s professional capabilities or expertise. Many respondents observed that sexism was the ‘norm’, and that it occurred across all parts of the sector.
This discussion paper highlights how ‘casual’ and ‘everyday’ sexism contribute to workplaces that are less favourable to women and privilege men, and the ways in which gender stereotypes and traditional ‘male’ qualities are subtly as well as overtly reinforced. It discusses direct and indirect ways in which women experience discrimination, especially in relation to workplace expectations and cultures that are incompatible with caring responsibilities.
Sexual harassment in the legal and justice sector was described as pervasive, normalised and often accepted, along with what is observed to be a pervasive culture of objectification of women, especially young women.
The themes that emerged in the research are presented relative to the underlying drivers that lead to violence against women, as established in the Our Watch Change the Story framework. Structuring the paper in this way enables us to shed light on how the drivers of violence against women manifest in the sector and, in so doing, more clearly identify the changes we need to work towards.