Workplace Violence – The Hidden Threat for Women

by Jan 29, 2016

Why women are targets of workplace violence.

 Because workplace violence is not directly about gender

In the USA, murder comes after traffic accidents as the second most common cause of work-related fatalities amongst women.   While at work, an American woman is twice as likely to die from violence as from a fall.  All across the Western world, women have much lower rates of workplace accidents, but are far more likely to be physically attacked.  In the USA, women experienced 70% of all serious workplace injuries due to workplace violence, a pattern which is reflected in other countries.

Personal Violence – the most dangerous to women

Workplace violence is usually divided into four types.

  1. There’s criminal intent, such as robbery;
  2. Customer/client violence, such as patients who harm their doctors;
  3. Workplace violence, which is inflicted by another employee “going postal”;
  4. Personal violence, such as attacks by stalkers.  Of these, personal violence is often seen as the most dangerous to women.

Around a third of workplace murders are  partner or ex, and women are 7 times more likely to be killed by an intimate partner while at work .  You could argue that these aren’t truly workplace incidents – but that still leaves two-thirds of workplace murders, as well as countless other injuries, to be explained.

It’s not Gender – It’s the Jobs!

It’s difficult to find accurate information on [Tweet “violence against women in the workplace”]: the statistics on ‘pure’ violence are often jumbled up with sexual harassment, verbal threats, or workplace bullying.  Outside the wealthy West, most countries don’t collect data at all.  But by picking through what’s available, a picture begins to emerge.

Women aren’t targeted because of their gender; they’re targeted because their jobs leave them exposed.

In the EU, the highest levels of violence and threats are reported in healthcare, public administration, and education – all female-dominated professions.  The lowest levels are in utilities, mining, and finance.  There are a handful of jobs in which customer/client violence is so common as to be almost routine, such as emergency nurses and teachers. In the U.K. violence against teachers is on the rise.

Women dominate the caring profession

Risk factors for workplace violence include working with the public, providing services or education, and interacting with vulnerable people; as women dominate the caring professions, they catch the brunt of violence. Read: Women Work and Emotional Labour

Reduce the risk of workplace violence

There are easy steps which can be taken to reduce the risk of workplace violence – things like working in pairs, varying the times at which tills are cashed out, or training staff to identify threats.  However, these are all processes which require top-down implementation.  For the front-line staff who are most likely to be victims of violence, there isn’t much they can do except try to defuse situations when they arise.

They are vulnerable twice over, both to workplace violence and being let down by their managers.

Women need to be aware of emotional bullying too. Take a look at  10 behaviours of an emotional bully to recognise these behaviour patterns.

The ultimate irony is that those working in so called caring professions and public service are more likely to be victims of workplace violence.

All career management advice contact 3Plus NOW for a 30 minute complimentary Skype call


Alice Bell Contributor
"Alice writes online about business, popular science, and women's lifestyle. After a few years working her way around the world, she has settled in the north of England and taken a day job as a maths teacher. Her life's ambition is to earn enough money to start repaying her student debt."

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