07 Jan Gender Equality
Gender equality is an interesting term, often misused in common discourse. Many people think it means that men and women are the same, and should thus be treated the same way. We can say without controversy, however, that this is not the case. That’s easy enough to illustrate, because no two men are the same, and no two women are the same. Hot take: everybody is different. What gender equality seeks, then, is not for us to view all people as exactly the same. Rather, gender equality has as its goal a reevaluation of our biases towards each gender. The equality isn’t found in seeing everyone as the same; it’s found in seeing everyone as different, and finding the value in those varied perspectives.
Here’s where things get tricky. Men and women do have different experiences in the world, because inherent biases are everywhere. When you have a team of men marketing cosmetic products, your results probably won’t be as good as if you had some women on the team. Men typically don’t use cosmetics, so they’ll have a less firm grasp on how the average cosmetics consumer uses products, and for what reasons. This means that while it’s important to look at each person as an individual with their own strengths and weaknesses, without bringing gender bias into the equation, there are inherent advantages to having a diverse team. This applies to race, class, culture, sexual orientation and more, not just to gender.
Bringing up our cosmetics advertising team again, it would be important to talk to your team members before simply giving them the assignment. Assuming that having women on the team is a good idea because more women use cosmetics than men isn’t the employer showing their inherent bias, it’s just a good application of data driven marketing. Assuming an individual woman should work the assignment because “all women wear cosmetics”, however, is quite biased. Equally, an employer should look to see if there are men on their team who wear cosmetics; it’s possible they’ll be able to find more diverse marketing opportunities by having a man who wears cosmetics on their team.
This is the main push and pull of gender equality. There are trends in each gender to engage in particular activities, and the presence of those trends might create a feedback loop where individuals who identity as a particular gender engage in the trends in order to fit into the gender stereotype. By assuming someone is engaged in the activity because of their gender, you increase the pressure to conform. Conversely, by treating individuals with as little bias as possible, we can buck those stereotypes, especially the more harmful ones. Assuming, for example, that leadership roles should be taken up by those with traditionally masculine traits might lead to an organization missing out on women as leaders.
Gender equality is about rights and opportunities; with mindfulness, it benefits our whole society. To make your organization more mindful of gender equality, hire women in business speakers to share their experience.