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If you are focused on gender equality, could you have the wrong focus?

8th March, 2021   •   3 min

Gender equality is treating everyone the same regardless of need, whereas gender equity is treating individuals differently depending on need. Gender equality aims to provide equal opportunities, whereas gender equity focuses on equal outcomes.

Women still have fewer opportunities, are paid less, and treated less well than men. “It will take another 100 years to achieve gender equality based on the current rate of progress” according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020.

The CEO of a multi-national bank falls ill on the train to work. Fortunately a nurse is in the same carriage and rushes over to help.

What did you picture when you read this? Did you picture a male CEO and a female nurse? If you did, don’t deny it, be defensive or ignore it. You are not alone. Unconscious bias exists. The first step to help achieve gender equity is to identify your own biases.

Awareness is the first step, action is the second. So, what action can we take to achieve equity?

1. Be aware of our unconscious bias

We all have unconscious biases. If we don’t address them we cannot change them. The first step is to recognise that you have an unconscious bias around gender. We are taught this implicit bias almost everyday. Take a free Implicit Association Test to assess your own bias.

2. Be conscious of your language

Women are more likely to be described as bossy where a man would be described as bold.

We use male gendered words in our lives without realising the impact this has. Mankind, green man (traffic lights), man hours, chairman…

“Seeing men as the human default is fundamental to the structure of human society…male bias is so firmly embedded in our psyche that even genuinely gender-neutral words like doctor or actor are read as male” – Caroline Criado Perez.

We all need to watch our language. Using they instead of he or she, person or human instead of man. Whether this is in our written work, job adverts or conversations, being aware of the language we use has a huge impact on our bias, how individuals around us feel and respond.

3. Ensure systems are structured for gender equity

Job applications are a good place to start. You might think you have created an equal process and when you end up with 90% male applicants you think, ‘well, it was an equal opportunity for anyone to apply’. Is the system falling into the equality versus equity trap? Often job applications are written with male pronouns and reviewed by individuals with unconscious bias.

nLook at the balance of individuals on your interview panel, writing the job descriptions and reading CVs. Ensure those recruiting have been on unconscious bias training. Ensure your job advert is accessible to all and actively reach out to certain groups.

4. Promote equal voice

50% of women experience being interrupted or spoken over in meetings, and 37% say that others have taken credit for their ideas (McKinsey Report, 2019). This has been amplified on video/conference calls where nonverbal cues are not being picked up.nHow to create equal voice in meetings:

  • Call people out for interrupting to ensure everyone is listened to and heard
  • Create structure to give everyone a chance to contribute
  • Give everyone equal speaking time in discussions
  • Bring people in by name, especially those who haven’t yet spoken
  • Repeat ideas shared by women crediting the woman who shared the idea

We can all play our part this international women’s day, and everyday, to create gender equity.

We would encourage you to take one action or new habit and embed it into your daily behaviours. Hold yourself accountable.