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Living in a diverse 21st century that is encountering rapid changes to gender equality and diversity and how we perceive every individual, recognising the importance of being able to adapt to changes happening around us in order for us to be able to survive and coexist. Society is defined by the participation of individuals and the roles they play. More often than not these roles are gender based. Therefor this essay will explore how gender roles affect male and female educational and professional choices, and the barriers they may encounter, identity change, implications and institutional responsibilities.
Gender equality as stated by UN Global Compact (1999) is an essential human right. Regardless of gender, both males and females have an entitlement to equal rights throughout education and society. This does not mean that we are the same, but that our opportunities, rights and responsibilities do not depend on whether or not we were born male or female and fair treatment for all depending on their respective needs.
Gender is defined in an individual by their biological sex, although how they identify themselves is down to individual choice. (Burr, 2003 p213) describes identity as strands woven together. Gender as a characteristic can be made up of multiple layers within each person. Sharp et al (2007) advises that actions and choices made by individuals help to mould the sexual orientation of that person. Thus, prompting changes in cultural standards, within an increasingly diverse society that develops as our generations advance. Pushing teachers towards reflecting on their standards and methods in which they convey learning, so we can be progressively inclusive of present-day gender identity.
Regards the importance of education, and the connections between education/training, the workforce and economy have shown a need for gender balance in recent years. A report conducted by the Scottish Government (Scottish Government Social Research, 2013) indicates that regardless of actions to reduce the gender gap in further education, there is still a requirement for changes to be made in order to combat this issue. The Office for National Statistics (2013), released figures which show a decrease in male employment but an increase in female numbers participating in the worklplace. However, further evidence from the Scottish Funding Council (2017) demonstrates an increase of up to 50.4% of males now undertaking studies in FE, be that as it may, success rates for males are still much lower than those of their female counterparts. This is due to the capacities of institutions to improve enrolment of potential students through implementation of strategies, while featuring the requirement for teachers to adjust more towards the needs of male students in order to aid retention and success rates.
The Scottish Funding Council (2016) demonstrate that there is still more than a 75% imbalance within some areas of FE. Some of the trade specific areas such as Motor vehicle, Engineering and Construction are still predominantly dominated by males. So, although there is a decline in male numbers entering FE, information still indicates that they are more likely to remain within an area or industry dominated by their own gender. This may be due to typical stereotyping, with males still expected to secure employment and become the main earner within the household in order to provide for their family. Whilst areas such as Beauty Therapy, Hairdressing and Child Care are still dominated by females, this may also be due to stereotyping and identity, with women still being expected to be homemakers and mothers who are readily available for their children.
Challenges within the classroom environment for teachers of males within a female dominated area may be of loneliness or feelings of exclusion, males are less likely to integrate within a female class, thus having a knock on effect with their studies, a lack of interaction or communication in small groups or class discussions due to male stereotyping may have an impact on grades and course achievement. Whilst the enrolment of more men within traditional female areas cannot be influenced by teachers, the use of more male role models within this subject area may help to break down the barriers and encourage more males into such an industry.
By developing inclusive practices within the classroom in order to embed equality and diversity into not only course content but also assessment, feedback and structure of curriculum, this will continue to break down the barriers regarding gender imbalance and inclusiveness within the learning environment. Teachers showing high levels of motivation and an openness towards positive mind sets in a diverse environment, promoting the fact that all students are treated equally without direct or indirect discrimination and by combining this with higher self-confidence and training. Avis, Fisher & Thompson (2014) state as teachers we have a duty to treat students fairly and equally and to enhance learning for all. Wright (2006) infers that by providing more opportunities for students to experience work experience and open discussions with lecturers and employers within the curriculum will help male students to succeed within their chosen study area. By promoting the use of self and peer assessment this may aid gender attitudes towards study choices. Females are more open to positive feedback, where males tend to use numerical forms of feedback. Teachers can utilise this method of learning and teaching to help break down barriers and reduce the gender imbalance within this non-traditional area.
By addressing equality within education and promoting protected characteristics within the classroom environment, and accepting that all learners are not defined by a single characteristic but that they are usually made up of a range of characteristics. By integrating this within the curriculum and course content this could help to change the opinion of many areas that are dominated by one gender or the other. Aikman & Unterhalter (2005) state that changes to items such as exercises, case studies and practical examples, could serve to provide a visual representation of gender equality to learners.
The appropriate use of terminology and language relevant to that subject area may be an issue, by using gender neutral language in order to reduce typical stereotyping and also by using male examples in female areas and vice versa will further aid men and women into entering into non-traditional areas of education and employment. As teachers we hold certain predujice defined as pre-judging students via stereotyping. Holding these prejudices does not mean that teachers act in a discriminatory way. Gregson & Hillier, (2015). By treating students in a different manner due to a protected characteristic has implications of direct discrimination. However, this can be safe guarded against in comparison to indirect discrimination which occurs when you implement a practice which can disadvantage a student who has a particular protected characteristic.
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