Gender Equality: easier said than done

“Yes, yes, we know gender equality is important and a matter of social justice. Actually, we believe that women are as worthy members of society as men and that there should not be any discrimination against them. I totally support that and believe in equal rights and equal opportunities. And I think I treat women and men with the same respect, I don’t consider myself sexist or anything like that.  But, how can I be sure? What does it mean to promote gender equality?“

This is such a common standpoint and it makes a lot of sense to wonder these things. Furthermore, the fact that you are asking yourself these questions (if you are doing it, and I’m going to assume you are, since you are reading this) says a lot about you. It says that you have dedicated sometime to think about gender equality and that you have reached the conclusion that it might not be as straightforward as it seems.

One of the reasons why it is harder than expected to act towards gender equality is because, sometimes, sexism has become more difficult to identify than it used to be. You probably don’t have in your organization a written rule that says: “when selecting workers for a managerial position, men will be preferred over women”. So, when it comes to challenge the fact that in most companies managerial roles are occupied by men, it is not as simple as changing the company normative. This situation, which is just an example, is the result of many combined factors and not all of them are in the direct area of influence of the company. It might be that less women than men apply for managerial positions, for example. Or that the number of women qualified for the specific requirements of some posts is very low. Is it ok, then, to just shrug and admit defeat? To conclude that “you tried but they just don’t want it”? Actually, no. This is the easy way out and one that just contributes to leave things the way they are, that is, unequal.

Let’s go back to the beginning of the text: you said you supported equal rights and opportunities, right? Then, if you and your organization want to live up to that ethic, the next thing is to take action. And, although it is not always easy or straightforward, the more you try, the better you will become at it. The steps are quite clear, which, again, does not mean easy:

1st you have to see the inequalities: numbers can help here (gender desaggregated statistics), but also a survey.
2nd you have to think: why is this so? How can I explain this?
3rd you have to evaluate if this is a bad thing or not (does this inequality have bad consequences for people? Why?). If it is not bad, you might want to just leave it or even promote it! If it is, it can’t stay like that.
4th you have to act: how can I make things better?

The steps are further developed in the Equality Journey tool. Again, however, following these steps might be easier said than done. Seeing inequalities, following the numbers, is usually much easier than understanding the reasons behind them. And then you still have to find a solution, which can prove to be very challenging. Nobody said it would be easy, but it definitely will be worth it. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly updates, tips, information and examples of how you may put equality into practice.

Laura Viñuela, Espora Gender Consulting