A few weeks ago, a guest speaker came to our class to give a presentation on Gender Equality as a part of our People Management course. It generated a good discussion and many questions arose about how equally biased we all are in terms of gender equality.
What exactly is gender equality? Is it about equal rights and freedom for women? Is it about driving a patriarchal society into a matriarchal one? The way I perceive it: equality is the availability of equal opportunities for every individual to just be “himself/herself”. Rather than being framed up and fit in a particular sect, it is about the right to individuality.
As much as the generation may be changing and as much as these ideologies may be maturing, we still fail to understand what this question is all about. During the presentation, the guest speaker brought up a particular situation; a case which involved 50 employees, who were hired for the same job profile. All of them received a more or less similar phone while just one female employee received a different type of phone. This particular case created quite a stir in the class. While the boys thought it was not such a big issue and the woman should not make such a fuss about it, the girls thought that it was really a case of inequality and they believed the woman should speak up against it stating that it was the gesture that was flawed.
As much as I enjoyed this debate, there was really only one question that crossed my mind: why would any organization order 49 phones of the same type and just one phone of a different type? That didn’t make sense to me. So instead of going with anyone’s perspective (the guys or the girls), I actually tried to know the flipside of the story. I would rather ask as whether there was a problem, which seemed extremely plausible to me in a situation like this.
The point that I wish to make is that when we hear about gender equality, we tend to jump to conclusions. Men wish to protect themselves from being blamed of discrimination and women tend to feel immediately discriminated. Equality is more like a state of mind. I agree that we have many people in our society who tend to still follow the male dominated societal norms. However, we, as the younger generation, need to start making changes in our perception.
The meaning of equality is not about empowering a particular gender or making one gender feel targeted. Nor is it about being controlled or overpowering the other. It is about giving equal rights to every individual so that they can just be themselves. Asking men to be strong or gentlemen-like is as biased as expecting a woman to cook or take care of the family. Accepting people as different and unique – as they are – should be what gender equality is all about.
Our generation is tolerant and accepting towards (social) issues and they have a lot of potential in understanding and analyzing different concepts. I have absolute faith that we would be able to find harmony in this aspect. I believe we all stand equal when it comes to feeling unequal and that marks a good beginning for change. Remembering that every change begins with you is key.
So let the change begin!