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Equality without substance

Yes, this is important. But, isn’t it a bit of an old chestnut? It is so problem oriented, would it not be better to see the opportunities? I have never noticed anything, it’s about being good at your job and strong, then things will work out well.

These are the kinds of thoughts that can be said when I offer courses in equality. When they are aired, they can be a big help in gaining an understanding of the problems.

As a gender researcher, I have often been involved in different types of courses, that are often aimed at helping to increase equality in society in general, in a certain sector, or for a specific professional group. I am used to facing objections as to what equality means. Expectations are often positive, especially if those attending have come of their own free will. They hope to gain practical tips on change work and methods that deliver the best results. However, expectations can be pretty negative on certain occasions, or at best ambivalent.

Young women can often say that they would like to know what earlier generations of women did wrong, and in so doing, learn how they should get things right this time.

Many men, of different ages, can express their thoughts through silence. It can be a matter of having the unpleasant feeling of being unfairly accused as a man. A feeling that can create a silent, but tangible sense of resistance. Silence can also mean the perception that this is nothing to do with them, it doesn’t concern me. One attitude, that is common among senior managers and executives, is that the issue is so narrow, it needs to be broadened to become interesting.

Researchers can quite simply ask what has this got to do with science? All these notions are of benefit when they are raised, such that knowledge and reflection can take the conversation forwards. But, if they are not expressed, this can hinder learning. The thought that equality is so narrow, often changes when managers complete a whole programme.

At the end of virtually every management programme that has included knowledge about gender and equality, both men and women, but especially men, are occupied with the insight that equality is about much, much more. It is that big a subject. Strategy, leadership, scientific quality, organisational culture, democratic values, sustainability, innovation and development, to name just a few….