Policies from the institutions that govern our world are aimed at achieving a 50:50 representation of men and women in politics and employment and other arenas of life.
Three of us, John Barry, Belinda Brown and Geoff Dench set up the Gender Equity Network because we think these inequalities may be a product of the different choices men and women make and the different values we hold. Inequality, in terms of numerical representation in particular areas, does not necessarily mean women are being treated unfairly, nor that they are less powerful or in any way of less worth.
We believe at the GEN that for most people fairness is more important than equality and sometimes fairness elides with numerical equality but sometime it does not.
So what we would like to do here is open up the discussion on inequality in a way which enables us to explore a whole range of issues free from prejudice. For example there is an assumption that it is somehow ‘better’ to have a more highly paid, high status job and therefore if women don’t have as many of this sort of job as men do there is something unfair going on. However for many women and men a less stressful workplace, flexible employment and pleasant colleagues are far more important than status or money so why does it matter if women don’t have as many top jobs?
Alternatively there is huge emphasis on the under-representation of women in the highest political levels. But surely we ought to be putting more emphasis on political participation at the grass roots so does this really matter?
Women make different choices in terms of what they would like to study. Perhaps we should respect their decisions as freely made choices of independently minded, forceful individuals rather than seeing women as victims of unconscious bias or gender stereotyping. Why should male preferences in for example maths or computing be seen as the yardstick which we should be striving for?
These are just some of the issues we would like to discuss here at the GEN and we hope you will join us.