The Dean's Corner: Gender Equity, Equality, and Mainstreaming in Continuing Education

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Carola Weil, Dean of Continuing Studies, reflects on how we incorporate into our systems gender equity and equality from start to finish.  

This time of year can be challenging for many. Days become shorter, temperatures drop, and, for adult learners, this can be an especially stressful time in maintaining work-life balance and continuing one’s education. We must remember too that these experiences are highly gendered. Individuals’ gender identity, which is socially constructed as opposed to one’s biological sex, has a significant impact on how someone can access, persist, and succeed in professional and personal development. To deliver and receive the highest quality continuing education and lifelong learning requires that we incorporate into our systems gender equity and equality from start to finish.  

November has been designated as “Movember” by some to raise awareness of men’s health issues. But we also will be marking Transgender Awareness Day on November 20th and International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25th. And just recently we had the opportunity to reflect upon International Pronouns Day. When we think about these benchmarks, it is important to remind ourselves that simply acknowledging them is a necessary but insufficient step toward true gender equality. We need to remember that gender, class, race, and other socio-economic and identity characteristics interact all the time. You cannot consider one without the other as we seek equity, diversity, and inclusion. 

Similarly, we must look beyond the numbers. A key tool for achieving true gender equity and equality is gender mainstreaming, “a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes” (UN Population Fund, 2005). By applying a gender lens to our curriculum, for example, we would take into account not only the content, the types, and sources of knowledge that are conveyed, but also how individuals will respond or be able to access that new knowledge and integrate it into their lived and learned experiences. This is the case even in courses and programs that seemingly have nothing to do with gender.  

Have you considered how a field like Supply Chain Management and Logistics changes when you consider gender mainstreaming? How is the movement of goods, services, and people prioritized and managed? How do we define what is of “strategic” value? What differential impact do particular working or logistics conditions in the field have on women, men, transgender, two-spirit, or gender fluid individuals? Or consider data science and analytics, or cybersecurity. You probably have already heard about the risks of biased data coding. But gender can also play a role in the career options and choices learners make in these fields. Are we allowing ourselves to consider the full range of options? Do we shy away from hard science or math because of how we have been socialized to fear these subjects or presume that we cannot succeed?  

A core mission of the School of Continuing Studies is to empower and support individuals along their path of professional and personal transformation. Without gender equity and equality, we cannot empower or be empowered.  

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