Overcoming the Odds – How can we push through barriers to achieve gender equality?

As a society over the past few generations we have made significant strides to gender equality in our workplaces, schools and organisations. We have had seen organizational change that have targets goals and strategies which result in more women on boards and management, some female CEO’s and we have even seen our first female prime minister in the last decade in Australia. YET regardless of these specific policies, goals and intent somehow gender disparity still is occurring – in pay, in conditions, in opportunities and in perceptions – not just for women but for men also. We unconsciously assign gender roles to men or women and these limitations are not real but rather they are learned and imposed by the society we have been raised in. These limitations are not overt but subtle and ingrained in our everyday thoughts and behaviours. How often have we been socialised to think?• Women do the housework while men do the yardwork• A woman can’t be both pretty and smart• Women are nurses, teachers and office workers while men are doctor, engineers, pilots and construction workers• Men who dance, do theatre or even work in the early years of schooling are ‘soft’ and gay. • Women who are competitive, strong, ambitious and decisive are unlikeable, unapproachable and being hypermasculine• Women should be caring, nurturing and emotional while men should be tough, assertive and confident.The first step to overcoming the odds of gender inequality necessitate that we understand the deep roots of unseen bias that challenge our everyday thinking and being. We have to focus on changing our mindsets before implementing systemic goals and targets. However, this can only be achieved with open dialogue and challenging our internal conversations whenever we find ourselves thinking biased and gender specific thoughts.I found myself challenged with this very thing just a few short weeks ago when after finishing a theatre performance I was given the role of handing flowers to the directors of each discipline. As we handed the flowers to the men I found myself thinking “ Why are we giving guys flowers – they wont want them” – a thought that didn’t pass my mind as we handed them to the women. Afterwards I began to question my thoughts and the silent bias I had attributed to this very simple gesture.Faye Crosby, a social psychologist, wrote about this unconscious bias labelling it second generation bias– so although society has addressed gender inequity in the real and tangible sense over the last few decades – this second-generation bias requires not merely a change of practice but more deeply of mindset. How do we do this? Our generation is probably the first to have had ???? and it is up to us to work with like minded individuals to continually challenge the thinking and behaviour around us. We need to• Be the change we want to see –to live it, embrace it and be a role model for others by ensuring we always challenge the thinking that’s holding us back. • We need to overcome the odds by challenging others when we consider their thinking or actions to have unconscious bias or if we feel others are being stereotypically derogatory in their comments. We need to help others see the bias they may not see themselves so they can be more mindful of it. • We need to expose it and question it when we see it in movies, the media or books – so we change the perceptions of what we see as the norm. • Lastly we need to ensure we don’t hold ourselves by restricting our own choices based on gender perceived traits or behaviour alone – we need to try new things that are outside of our ‘limitations’. Nowhere is this bias more evident in rural communities such as mine – where generations of families have been involved in farming and where predominantly farms are ‘handed down’ to the male children. Many girls in our community ??????/// Opportunities like this to be a voice for change and to help others reflect and challenge their internal biases are more important than ever for rural communities so that second generation change can occur and help our communities flourish. Small communities are experiencing an unprecedented decline in population and are not attracting a large influx of new people. We need to challenge gender stereotypes and thinking even more deeply in order to sustain and grow. In order to achieve equality, we need to look at people as people, not men or women with a distinct set of traits or behaviours based on gender. Each individual can be suited to any career path they choose once stereotypical mindsets are challenged. So… everything that a man can do, a woman can do too, and vice versa! I look forward to meeting with others who are inspired to educate everyone About Second-Generation Gender Bias for both women and men and to work with them to engender change at the conscious level.

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