Author: GLE Team | Published on 1 September 2023
As you are implementing more gender responsive practices in your classroom you may find yourself having conversations with learners about gender equality. If you have to use materials that include gender bias, norms and stereotypes that might be harmful to others it’s important to highlight this and facilitate a discussion around it with your learners where possible and appropriate.
Stage 1: Plan Ahead
If possible, review learning materials before you use them so you have a good understanding of the issues that you would like to highlight in the materials. Is it the lack of female leaders? Are there harmful norms about masculinity? Is it gender stereotypes in a profession? Is it sexist language? Ensure it is clear in your mind what the issue is and why it is important to discuss and highlight with your learners.
Stage 2: Ask Open Questions
If you see a gender equality challenge in learning materials or hear it spoken in your learning environment it might be tempting to explain why this might be harmful. It is better to pose an open question about the issue and facilitate discussion instead. For example, asking: Does anyone have a thought or anything they would like to say about this image/word/expression? What is positive/negative about this image/word/expression/situation? It is important not to lecture about the issue but explore it with your learners asking questions about their thoughts and ideas on the issue. You can also begin to highlight the issues more directly through questions such as “Some people might say that depicting women only in these domestic settings throughout this magazine might restrict women’s opportunities, does anyone have a thought on that?”
Stage 3: Remain Open, Curious and Sensitive
It is important to remain open to the thoughts of others and sensitive to the social and cultural context. Also, recognise that discussing gender equality is likely to include talking about race, class, sexual orientation, and other intersectional issues and that not every male or female student’s experience and understanding of gender bias is the same. Exploring these cross-cutting issues and sharing experiences is important. We are not trying to get all our learners to adopt the norms we think are right, abandon their home cultures, or that their personal or cultural beliefs are inferior. We have a responsibility as educators to educate about gender equality but should avoid lecturing about what is right or wrong in this particularly in relation to differing cultural, religious, or social beliefs which may be held.
Stage 4: Highlight Agency for Change
It is important to emphasise to learners that we are all able to do our bit to tackle inequality and that we are all agents for positive change. The way we act and what we choose to say or not say can perpetuate or reduce gender bias. Encourage discussions on what happens when people raise their voices about others or when discrimination occurs, but no one speaks up and what could happen if we did.