Gender Audit

The Gender Taskforce at the Rivers School in Weston, Massachusetts, is at the first steps of a gender audit. The term is new to me so I am starting from zero. Google says that a gender audit is a tool to assess and check the institutionalisation of gender equality into organisations, including in their policies, programmes, projects and/or provision of services, structures, proceedings and budgets.

Google also spit out Building a Gender Friendly School Environment: a toolkit For educators and their unions by Scott Pulizzi and Laurie Rosenblum. It is dated and only a little relevant to our school yet gave me a bit of background.

Here are my notes. I edited has I read to reflect that gender nor sex are binary.

Students learn about their gender identity and who they are in relation to the others. Our school plays an important role in this process since they spend 1000+ hours in school annually.

Hidden curriculum refers to the unwritten, unofficial, and often unintended lessons, values, and perspectives that students learn in school through physical spaces and organizational arrangements, in celebration of events and occasions, in assigning tasks given to boys, girls and non-binary in school. Social expectations of gender, language, behavior, or morals are examples that mold perspectives of students deal with issues such as gender, morals, social class, stereotypes, cultural expectations, politics, and language.

Cultural aspects of hidden curriculum include school norms or ethos; décor and wall decorations; roles and relationships, including intergroup relations (within and between teachers and students); student cliques, rituals, and celebrations; and teacher expectations of various groups of students.

Gender identity is closely connected to gender equality, safety, and equity.

The goal is to challenge and change negative gender stereotyping and gender inequalities in all aspects of learning institutions and to promote equal opportunities for all genders of learners to develop a healthy gender identity and complete a quality basic education.

The prevailing gender roles, in which men are dominant, and the resulting inequalities have left women disadvantaged in terms of education, access to information and resources, income, rights, and decision-making power.

Gender is different than sex and from sexual orientation.

‘Gender’ is a social construct that refers to the roles, relationships, attitudes, values, behaviours, power, and influence that society ascribes to female, male or non-binary.

‘Sex’ refers to the biological characteristics that differentiate between male, female and Intersex.

‘Sexual orientation’ refers to a person’s sexual attraction to men, women, both, or neither.

‘Gender identity’ involves what it means to be a man or a woman or other in a particular context, and one’s sense of oneself as a gender.

Transgender people, whose sense of themselves as male or female (gender identity) is different from the traditional norms for their biological sex, are especially vulnerable to discrimination and violence.

Challenging and changing negative gender stereotyping and gender inequalities to foster gender equality and healthy gender identity starts with a gender audit.

‘Gender equality’ allows people of all genders in a non-binary school to develop their abilities and make choices without having to follow set stereotypes or rigid gender roles. Learners of different genders may have different needs. Due to the disadvantages they have experienced as female, male, or non-binary, they should be treated differently in some situations in order to achieve equality. ‘Gender equity’ exists to help achieve gender equality, to ensure that male, female and non-binary people are treated fairly and equitably according to their different needs.

The intent is not to make men, women and non-binary people the same, but to give all of them equal and comparable opportunities to achieve.

To foster gender equality and healthy gender identity schools need to do the following:

Adapted from The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). (2003). Safe and Sound: An Educational Leader’s Guide to Evidence-based Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Programs. Available at www.CASEL.org.
  • Promote positive, well-rounded role models that counter the prevailing rigid and narrow role models
  • Promote gender roles that support equality and healthy relations
  • Encourage everyone to honour a wide range of possibilities for ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ values, roles, and qualities and any combination of them within individuals regardless of their biological sex
  • Help individuals build their own gender identity that they are comfortable and confident with and that allows them to engage in healthy relationships that do not involve behaviour that is harmful to oneself or others
  • Help individuals be respectful of others’ gender identity
  • Promote healthy attitudes, values, behaviours, interactions, and life skills in relation to gender issues, and create a capacity-building environment so that all learners can benefit equally and reach their full potential
  • Promote psychosocial and interpersonal skills that can help all learners make informed decisions and communicate them clearly
  • Encourage learners, faculty and staff to treat one another with mutual respect, work in partnership, and support one another to assert their rights, including engaging males as allies for females and non-binary people in the face of discrimination against females and the non-binary
  • Encourage all learners to choose from the same wide range of opportunities in courses, extracurricular activities, and career paths

Because gender issues are embedded throughout all aspects of a learning institution, in order to attain full gender equality it is essential to consider and examine all aspects of the learning institution environment, including:

  • All the things embedded in learning institutions every day that reinforce stereotypes that are negative or harmful in terms of gender
  • Ways to make changes so that gender equality is attained throughout every learners’ experience of the learning institution

The following aspects of a learning institution should be examined:

  • Access to the learning institution (recruitment, application, financial aid, etc)
  • Physical environment
  • Culture of the institution
  • Curriculum
  • Resource materials
  • Instructional and assessment practises
  • Counseling and support services
  • Policies and rules (Policy is an institutional position that addresses a particular demand or issue. )
  • Connections with parents and the community
  • Procedures for monitoring our progress toward gender equality
  • Extracurriculars
  • Athletics

Gender issues are embedded in every part of a learning institution environment. Curricula, textbooks, and other instructional materials depict males and females in different roles and interacting in different ways. Gender bias influence how educators are trained and how they teach and manage their classrooms.

Some questions to consider:

  • Are there policies regarding gender-based violence, including language?
  • Are there bathrooms for all genders in every bathroom?
  • Is a culture/ethos of respect and dignity fostered in which female, male and non-binary learners are treated equally?
  • Is a culture/ethos of respect and dignity fostered in which female, male and non-binary faculty and staff are treated equally?
  • Are there policies and training programmes to help promote this culture?
  • Are female, male and non-binary people included in a variety of roles in the learning institution, e.g., Who is teaching at all grade levels, included in decision-making, and employed as support staff?
  • Are learners grouped for activities by criteria other than gender?
  • Are the visual displays throughout the learning institution free of gender bias?
  • Are there visual displays that portray positive role models?
  • Do educators have the skills to change the culture?
  • In what ways are educators and other learning institution personnel reinforcing negative stereotypes?
  • In what ways are educators and other learning institution personnel serving as positive role models?
  • If there are no ways to promote a culture of respect and dignity, what are the barriers and what can we do to overcome them?
  • Are the curricula and materials free of gender stereotypes?
  • Do the curricula and materials promote positive roles all genders of learners?
  • Are inclusive language and images/graphics used? (For example, do they include females and males in equal numbers and give females and males equal status?)
  • Is information included on contributions to society made by both females and males?
  • Are there any mechanisms to challenge gender biases in the curricula and materials used in learning institutions?
  • Are educators correcting gender biases in curricula and materials when they do not have the resources to buy new books?
  • Are there a curriculum and materials on gender bias and equality?
  • Are there a curriculum and materials on learning life skills that promote gender equality, including communication and relationship skills, assertiveness, cooperative and non-violent behaviour, and conflict resolution?
  • What can we do to overcome the barriers and implement changes?

Does faculty and staff training and professional development cover the following topics?

  • gender-based bias
  • gender-based discrimination
  • gender-based forms of violence
  • how to challenge gender-based bias, discrimination, and violence
  • role of bystanders (people who are at the scene of an unsafe interpersonal interaction but are neither the aggressor nor the victim)
  • teaching and facilitation methods that are free from gender stereotypes and that enable educators to create gender equality in the classroom
  • ways to teach learners about gender bias, equality, and related life skills
  • policies and procedures that promote gender equality and how to enforce them

More questions to consider:

  • For the topics that are not covered, what might be the barriers to including them? in pre-service settings or in in-service settings?
  • What can we do to overcome the barriers and have these topics included?
  • How sensitive and open to gender issues is the environment in which educator trainings are being conducted?

Is gender equality promoted by educators in the following areas?

  • opportunities for both female and male learners to participate in activities and speak in class
  • structuring of groups and classroom
  • giving out of assignments, including academic work and classroom maintenance tasks
  • expectations of achievement, attitudes, participation, and behavior
  • amount and type of attention given
  • Positive feedback given
  • Negative feedback and discipline given
  • reinforcement of learner equality
  • encouragement for the pursuit of further learning opportunities, e.g., courses and career education
  • criteria for assessing learners’ progress

The question continue:

  • Is extra attention and help given to female learners to make up for inequalities they have experienced?
  • Is extra encouragement given to female learners to pursue subjects and careers not traditionally done by females?
  • Is extra attention given to females to help them develop positive self-esteem, self-image, and self-confidence?
  • For the areas where gender equality is not being promoted, what might be the barriers?
  • If female learners are not being given extra encouragement and/or attention, what might be the barriers to providing this?
  • What can we do to overcome these barriers and have educators treat female and male learners equally and provide extra encouragement and attention to learners as needed?

Are there equal opportunities, resources, and recognition in all types of extracurricular activities, including:

  • sports
  • arts
  • institution government
  • cultural activities
  • games at recess
  • clubs
  • Are there any special programmes to encourage females to get involved in activities that have been considered mainly for males?
  • For the areas where gender equality is not being promoted, what might be the barriers?
  • If there aren’t any special programmes to help female learners, what might be the barriers to providing them?
  • What can we do to overcome the barriers and have learning institutions implement equal opportunities for female and male learners and also special programmes for female learners as needed?
  • Are counselling and psychosocial support services provided for all members of the learning institution community?
  • Are referrals to medical and legal aid services provided for victims of harassment and violence and their families?
  • Do educators have the basic skills regarding how, when, and where to make referrals?
  • Does the learning institution have links or working relationships with government departments that provide community social services, such as social welfare?
  • For the services that are not being provided, what might be the barriers to implementing them?
  • What can we do to overcome the barriers and have learning institutions provide these services?
  • Are there codes of conduct for all workers at the school?
  • Are there training for all workers on the codes of conduct?
  • Are there codes of conduct for learners?
  • Is there training on the codes of conduct for learners?
  • Are the codes of conduct for learners and educators widely publicised?

Are there policies and procedures on:

  • handling grievances
  • involving stakeholders
  • investigating incidents, such as teasing, bullying, harassment, and violence
  • the role of the bystander in unsafe interpersonal situations
  • protection for people who have allegations being levelled against them
  • protection for people who report cases
  • resolving cases, including appropriate disciplinary action for aggressors
  • If codes of conduct and related policies exist, are they enforced and effective?
  • If not, what can we do to make them more effective?
  • If there are no codes of conduct or related policies, what might be the barriers to developing them?
  • What can we do to overcome the barriers and have learning institutions develop them?
  • What is the incidence of reported violence (including language) experienced by non-binary learners?
  • What is the incidence of reported violence (including language) experienced by female learners?
  • What is the incidence of reported violence (including language) experienced by male learners?
  • What can we do to eliminate teasing, bullying, harassment, violence, and sexual abuse overall?
  • Is the language in all communication to parents and the community free of gender stereotypes and bias?
  • Is information provided to parents and the community on the learning institution’s gender equality initiatives?
  • Are both female and male community members involved in learning institution programmes and activities in similar numbers?
  • Are parents and the community involved in the planning, promotion, and implementation of the learning institution’s gender equality initiatives?
  • For the areas where communication and involvement are lacking, what might be the barriers?
  • What can we do to overcome the barriers and have learning institutions make these changes?
  • Is there a system for monitoring whether methods of ensuring gender equality are being carried out?
  • Is there a system through which educators and learners can confide emerging sensitive and complex issues without repercussions so that changes can be made?
  • Is gender equality incorporated into the programme evaluation process?
  • Is there a system for evaluating the extent to which gender equality has been achieved in the learning institution?
  • If these systems exist, are they effective?
  • If not, what can we do to make them more effective?
  • For the systems that do not exist, what might be the barriers to implementing them?
  • What can we do to overcome the barriers and have learning institutions implement these systems?

Next steps:

  • Which ones are the most important to take action on?
  • How can they be addressed? (For example, do you want to improve the curricula and instructional materials by removing all negative gender stereotypes and adding positive language and images? Do you want to develop codes of conduct for educators and learners?)
  • What issues can you realistically address at the same time?
  • How can you organise educators in your learning institution to start taking action right away?

Now I have plenty to think about. My first job on the gender taskforce for the gender audit will be a study of the bathrooms and locker rooms.

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