Engaging men in the gender conversation

The Division of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion invited Professor Timothy O’Leary (Head of School, Humanities and Languages) to reflect on how gender equity impacts everyone.

This year, the theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) is ’Each for Equal’, highlighting the power of individual actions to ignite broader, collective change. Gender equity can only be achieved when people of all genders work together and call for change.

Men can sometimes frame their commitment to gender equity by saying that they want a better world for their wives and daughters to inhabit. But what if men were to say they support gender equity because they have sons? Or because they have a husband, or a boyfriend, or they find themselves confined in some way by narrow definitions of their own gender roles? If men view gender inequity as an issue that only impacts women, they will more likely have the first response. If they see how men can also benefit from gender equity, they might respond in the second way and be more engaged in the conversation.

I joined UNSW in 2018 and attended my first International Women’s Day breakfast in March 2019. I was very surprised, and disappointed, to see so few men present in the packed room. There were no men at all on the stage as far as I recall, and only a handful of men scattered around the tables. In general, I think that UNSW has a thoughtful and strong set of policies around gender equity, but as always, more needs to be done.

In my opinion men need to be brought into the conversation about gender in a more meaningful way. This will help meet inclusion targets (which of course are fundamentally important).It will also help engage in discussions about the many ways that gender-specific expectations, on the part of both men and women, can influence our decisions, often in ways that have unjust outcomes for everyone.

Gender is everyone’s business. International Women’s Day is a great opportunity for men at UNSW to get involved, to show their support for gender equity goals and to start thinking about how gender expectations and roles affect everyone — men, women, and gender non-conforming people alike.

To respond to the theme of ’Each for Equal’, UNSW is honoured to be joined by Sally Rugg (Executive Director of Change.org) for a special IWD event on Friday 6 March. This conversation will also include the UNSW Gender Diversity Champions, a student representative and a male champion of change. All members of the UNSW community are encouraged to register for this event.


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