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How to combat gender inequality

Educators are uniquely situated to help combat gender inequality through gender equity and intersectionality.

Striving for equality between genders recognises that everyone deserves the right to the same opportunities in life and should not be held back, overlooked or discriminated against based on their gender.

This article will look at some strategies to help educators counter unfair discrimination.

Like Nelson Mandela famously said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

Educators have a position of authority and influence in the classroom which makes them well-placed as change agents and role models, especially when it comes to gender. Disrupting this gender bias in educational settings will see more diversity among workers in all sectors at all levels, working towards improved work-life balance for women and men, and a reduction in the gender pay gap.

As a teacher, you have the power to:

  • Identify and address gender inequality as it materialises in your classroom;
  • Educate students on gender inequality and the need for gender equality; and
  • Model gender equity in all teaching practices and interactions with students.

Start by understanding gender equity and equality theories and the values that underpin these concepts.

Gender Equity

Do you know what ‘gender equity’ means and how it is different from gender equality? Consider the following definitions:

  • Gender equality: Equal participation, value, access, and opportunities for all people, regardless of their sex, gender or gender identity.
  • Gender equity: Recognising that people have different needs and access to power due to historical oppression and systems of advantage, and making sure resources and services are distributed according to people’s specific needs to achieve equal outcomes, regardless of their sex, gender, or gender identity.

The following is a visual depiction of how we cannot achieve equality by just giving everyone the same thing. Sometimes we need to look at where people are at, what the existing barriers are, and how can we remove barriers or provide compensation through an equity approach.

A representation of equity. Person A is tall, Person B is short, and Person C uses a wheelchair. To see over a fence, A stands on a small box, B stands on a larger box, and C sits on the largest box. This demonstrates how equity helps to achieve equal outcomes.

(Swindon, Parker & Monaghan, 2020)

Gender Intersectionality

An important consideration in applying gender equity is the understanding of gender intersectionality. Gender intersectionality refers to the fact that gender ‘intersects’, or crosses over, with other social identities including (but not limited to) Indigeneity, ethnicity, age, religion, race, class, sexual orientation and disability. All of these intersecting factors play a part in a person’s experiences, access to resources, and their personal views and perspectives, and therefore need to be considered when supporting their needs.

An intersectional gender lens applied to your teaching practice will require you to learn and understand the social and gender-based needs and preferences of your learners and incorporate these considerations into your pedagogical approach (Our Watch, 2017).

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