I came to know and understand gender blindness as a concept only a few years ago and when I stumbled on it, I realised that it mapped so well into the ideology of what I believe in. The world of inclusion is incredible when you start getting into it and understanding the nuances of it, you grow as a person and your world view shifts.
What is gender blindness really?
There are different approaches to understanding gender blindness and they are contrasting. The negative and positive connotations exist parallelly.
“Gender blindness” refers to the lack of awareness about how men and women are differently affected by a situation due to their different roles, needs, status and priorities in their societies.” (*Our Secure Future – Sahana Dharmapuri)
Failure to recognise that the roles and responsibilities of women/girls and men/boys are ascribed to, or imposed upon, them in specific social, cultural, economic and political contexts. (EIGE Thesaurus)
In education, business, law, and other fields, gender blindness or sex blindness is the practice of disregarding gender as a significant factor in interactions between people. (*Wikipedia)
When you look at and examine each piece you realise, they are connected more than meets the eye. One must be aware of the differences in genders and that there are no more binary references to gender anymore in the world. From this awareness, comes the understanding of how gender blindness can be approached from a work and professional environment point of view. This piece of consciously choosing to not see gender for the greater good, I will call gender neutral and that approach can come from being gender sensitive.
Gender blindness is harmful and can further gender inequalities as it ignores historical differences between people of different genders.
Here’s why being gender blind in the negative context can have long standing impact:
- Gender blindness discourages equality and slows down the process of achieving equal access
- It ignores the struggle and endurance of gender minorities
- It can be used as a smokescreen for blatant or systemic sexism in workplaces
- Practiced incorrectly, it can impact opportunities
- Equal participation and growth get impaired
- It adds to the wage gap
Here’s why gender neutral and gender sensitive approaches can be beneficial:
- Infusing gender inclusive processes can balance systemic gaps in the system
- Gender sensitive language and practices can empower the ecosystem
- Making pronoun sharing as a standard helps build an inclusive space
- Inclusive facilities can also give a sense of belonging
- It helps build a diverse thought culture
How can we address the gaps:
- Educate everyone on conscious and unconscious gender bias and its implications
- Build a framework and policies to support gender sensitive and neutral workplaces
- Understand and equalise the wage gap
- Awareness is key and every instance will need to be addressed
- A supportive environment can be created with support groups and mental health support
- Model gender inclusive language across the board
- Gender inclusive dress codes also help support the environment
Business value goes up incrementally when organisations invest in inclusion across the board. It’s not a question of why it should be done and what the impact is, it is now a conversation about how to implement this and encourage building a workplace of the future that is truly gender neutral and sensitive.
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