Gender (in)equality – engaging secondary school students to take action. By Dr Emma Jeanes.

In this post Dr Emma Jeanes discusses a recent workshop, ‘Achieving Gender Equality for Young Women’, that she held on November 10th as part of the ESRC’s Festival of Social Science. This event was attended by pupils from Torquay Boys Grammar School and Exeter College. 

Gender Equality workshop
Groups break out to discuss gender (in)equality
The event - inspiring students to take action

The day-long event held at the Queens Court Hotel in Exeter, addressed pupils’ understandings of gender and equality. We  provided empirical evidence to help them explore the nature and extent of the phenomenon, and tasked the students with developing projects to tackle gender inequality.

Through means of presentations, short videos, posters and discussions we tackled questions such as ‘what is gender?’ and ‘what is (in)equality?’ before exploring the multiple ways in which gender inequality exists in our workplaces, at home, in politics and society more widely. We explored some of the feminist arguments that seek to explain the nature and cause of inequality, and possible solutions. We also explored the gendered nature of language and the challenges of tackling unconscious bias.

The challenges of gender inequality emerge at societal, macro-institutional, organisational and individual levels.

Indeed, for young women it is often the ‘confidence gap’ that holds them back as much as external barriers, as evidenced by my recent ESRC-funded study ‘Overcoming gender barriers to leadership experienced by school-leaving girls’.

The staff and students engaged in lively discussions that carried on over lunch. The students created a poster highlighting gender stereotypes and what we can do to tackle them.

Gender Stereotypes poster
Fantastic suggestions for tackling gender inequality

They also wrote a letter entitled ‘Keep it Simple’ that set out the importance of equal treatment regardless of gender from birth and throughout one’s life. This reframed gender equality around notions of ungendered choices rather than necessarily that of balance (e.g. the proportion of women in STEMM subjects).

The students took home various resources:

  • an information pack
  • a postcard for them to complete with key learning points and actions for the future
  • their own projects devised during the workshop to share with their fellow pupils and teachers.
Gender equality is a persistent and pervasive problem. Education is a key means of tackling gender inequality as it is only through shifting social attitudes, and creating greater awaren

The event also showcased work resulting from the University of Exeter’s Gender Inequality Grand Challenges programme from June 2018.

Two of the participants from the Grand Challenges teams supported the event. Cathrin Fischer (second year, Flexible Combined Honours), presented and led a discussion on the role of language in gender inequality. Jemma Rimmer (second year, BA Geography) provided feedback and guidance to the groups during the afternoon group session.

Gender equality is a persistent and pervasive problem, and education is key means of tackling gender inequality, as it is only through shifting social attitudes and greater awareness that we can create a more gender-equal society.

Continuing research impact - engaging audiences online

The theme of the event supports my Education Incubator grant funded project, which is developing a Gender Equality Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).

The MOOC, targeted at 16+ adults (but open to everyone), seeks to increase understanding of gender (in)equality – what it is, how it is sustained, and specific types and consequences of inequality in the workplace, home and more widely in society – and what can be done to effectively challenge and overcome gender inequality.

The ESRC Festival of Social Science event provided a good base for developing this project, and also highlighted the ambition to increase awareness of gender (in)equality in secondary education.

The MOOC project, led by myself, is supported by two student interns, Jemma Rimmer and Lauren Castle (final year, BA English with study in North America), who will be involved in all stages of the project, from honing the concept, to creating and presenting the material.

It is anticipated that the MOOC will be available late in 2019, and will offer free enrolment.

If you would like to known more about Emma’s work on Gender Equality you can contact her here.

Education Higher Education Project

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