Talking About Gender Equality

Talking About Gender Equality

There are a lot of topics that are taboo in the workplace; members of any organization will find ways to talk about them anyway. The topics that are taboo are personal, and a lot of people love talking about their strongly held beliefs because those beliefs are integral to understanding who they are. That’s all well and good, but when two groups with conflicting beliefs get into a conversation, it can quickly descend into argument territory, where discussion ends and hurt feelings begin. One particularly tricky topic of our day is gender equality; is it possible to discuss it in the workplace?

My view is that it’s not only possible to discuss in the workplace, it’s important to do so. Gender equality can mean many things to many people, but one of the core tenants of equality is that two people who are doing the exact same work should be paid the same amount, regardless of gender (or race, or creed). This is usually one of the most contentious points of any discussion about gender; while any two people are likely to agree with the premise, what constitutes equal work is far more difficult to gauge.

The lack of hard, fast metrics about equality is what makes it even more important to discuss what equality consists of; only by gauging a diversity of opinions can we start to move towards a more fair workplace. Discussions about gender equality can take place in a number of different ways. You might talk about it one on one with your colleagues, or in a small group. The key to these discussions, as with any discussions about a sensitive topic, is to go in with good faith. Assume that whoever is talking to you genuinely wants the best for the world and came to their conclusion through reason and evidence. When someone talks to you about their idea of gender equality, use the steel man* technique. Reposit their argument to them in as eloquent and succinct a way as possible; show that you truly understand where they’re coming from. When you do that, a real discussion can be had, because no one is trying to win; everyone is trying to understand.

You can also have discussions about gender and gender equality on a broader scale. You can have meetings with multiple stakeholders in your organization present where you talk about gender equality, playing games and reflexion exercises to get a better idea of what gender equality means to everyone. This isn’t something that everyone know how to do with ease and grace; after all, the subject is pretty contentious. An expert in the subject matter, like a female leaders speaker, can help get the discussion going and bring about important conversation and self-reflection. The answers to the questions about equality are not easy to find; discussion seems to be the best way to find common ground.