Keerit Singh, student at Warwick Business School, finalist of the CoBS 2019 CSR article competition, delves into the age-old conflict of gender equality and its significance in the present day in paving the path towards a prosperous future.
We all believe that every pivotal moment in history began with the need for change. But if we look carefully and critically, reading between the lines of every significant movement in the last century, we can see that it all began the moment we realized that change had arrived and was no longer a figment of our imagination of the far future.
We live in a time where change is yet again no longer on the horizon: it is here, and it is a formidable force to be reckoned with. It did not arrive at our doorsteps on a silver platter; it was fought for. It would be a shame to squander this progress if we didn’t fight for what we want now that we have the opportunity to do so. So, it is no surprise that we no longer choose to snub the age-old argument on gender equality and the requirement of it, in a malleable world like ours.
The question that lingers after every discussion on gender equality is its significance in today’s times. As society begins to question the actions we have made in the past with regards to the way we treat people based on their gender, a key concern is whether the issue of gender equality is an issue worth exhausting innumerous resources on. Another concern is whether any of our solutions will accurately solve the ‘crisis’ at hand. But perhaps one of the many reasons why the question still remains unanswered is because we have never truly broken down what the debate on gender equality actually entails. Therefore, before arguing on the merits of gender equality, it is important that we understand what exactly it means.
Gender equality and its many faces
It is a conversation starter at dinner parties, when everyone has decided that they need to address the elephant that was never in the room but had been brought in as a party trick. It is a trump card for corporations who want to show that they employ as many women as they do men, without realizing that they had managed to dig themselves another grave through positive discrimination. We have seen in the recent news that it is the nagging gum at the bottom of a politician’s shoe, making it difficult for them to move forward in their campaign unless they address it, when the truth is that they are not exactly too sure what the issue really is.
Gender equality can be best described as the idea that both men and women can be treated equally at the workplace, at home and in society. But the problem is that it is habitually ignored solely out of the convenience of not having to address it. It is often overlooked as a ‘woman’s’ problem, and that most people do not realize that the consequences of gender inequality impact more than just one gender. They tend to overlook the fact that gender equality is also about the way men are treated in light of the inequality that is tightly interwoven into the bedrock of our predominantly patriarchal society.
Consequentially, people like to believe that the way to justify the need and importance of gender equality would be to highlight its impact on men. But that too squanders the whole purpose of the argument. For decades now, all it has turned into is an argument with two distinguished sides, for and against, with no signs of either side coming up with a conclusive answer. We have allowed ourselves to be lost in years’ worth of arguments, which have perhaps limited our hindsight as to why we need gender equality at all.
Why we need gender equality the way we need the latest iPhone
The most simplistic way to describe why we need gender equality would be to understand what gender inequality has done to us. Inequality has rendered us insecure and prone to worrying about defending ourselves rather than living our lives. We wear it like a new pair of sunglasses, which show us everything the other person has that we do not. According to Leon Fastinger’s well-known Social Comparison Theory it is human nature to compare one’s self-worth by using other people’s lives as a benchmark (Festinger, 1954). So when we begin to feel insecure of what the other person has, we begin to try and find what makes them different. We begin to discriminate because the only way they could have what we do not is because they are different from us. This has essentially made us create strife between each other by highlighting our differences without understanding what those differences actually mean.
Dr. Nirao Shah at Stanford Medical School had researched on the cognitive differences between the male and female brain in 1998. It suggested that men and women are wired to think differently and behave differently in order to achieve the different goals that they have (Shah, 1998). The idea appears to be logical, however many find it offensive because they do not see how those differences impact them. For example, on average, women succeed men in comprehension and fine-motor skills, while men are more likely to succeed in tests with memory. Does this mean that either of them is intellectually inferior to each other? No, it simply means that the two of them are inclined to different skills and comparing them would be illogical. If we keep trying to argue on how one person has something we do not, without understanding how or why they have that one characteristic, we will never truly find ourselves in a peaceful state.
If we were all equal in each other’s eyes, the initial wall between us and the road to a flourishing future would no longer exist. In recent days as much as we all have a hate-love relationship with walls, this wall is one that holds us back from achieving a more prosperous world. It holds us back from seeing that the road to prosperity is not as long as we had paved it to be in our minds. It is in fact a rather journey of recognizing each other’s strengths and weaknesses without using it against each other.
But then, if the solution is so simple, why are we still stuck behind the wall?
The road to a prosperous future is littered with potholes
The road is not long, but it is plagued with obstacles that ironically, we have placed out. These hurdles can disappear with a snap of our fingers, but as much as we would all love (not) to be Thanos, the reason why we have not gotten rid of them already is because we need to understand what these obstacles are and what impact they have on us.
One of the major hurdles in our way is our lack of acceptance. We are all aware that the world around us is changing, but we need to accept how we contributed to the need for change. By refusing to acknowledge our involvement in allowing gender inequality to grow into a big, bad ugly monster from our nightmares, we are still encouraging its existence. Acceptance will not only lighten the burden we have unnecessarily taken onto our shoulders, but it will also help us see the need for equality clearer.
Beyond this, the truth is that gender equality is not the only goal we need to achieve in order to live in prosperity. There are far too many situations that we have created, solely because we do not understand the reason why differences occur. Achieving gender equality will perhaps help us learn the many things we need in order to create a more peaceful and understanding world. Learning to accept each other’s differences as each other’s strengths and weaknesses might help us understand why there is beauty in difference. We live in a world that is so intricately unique, with a million different perspectives and ideas, based on our innumerable cultures and histories. It would be a shame to expect ourselves to all be the same.
Therefore, the answer to the long-debated argument is that gender equality is not the only hurdle in our way. In fact, it is a wake-up call to help us see what our underlying issues really are and how solving them is not a matter of simply changing laws and increasing pay, it is about acceptance.
Things we need to remember
Gender equality affects everyone, perhaps not equally, but everyone’s experience with it matters. It is not one of the Twelve Labors of Heracles. It is achievable, and it is a step in the right direction. When we learn to accept our differences, the burden of comparing ourselves will no longer weigh down on our shoulders like the weight of the sky.
Prosperity is not as hard to achieve, as we all like to think it is. Perhaps the only reason why we imagined it to be a challenge is because it is easier to say that something is impossible rather than trying out the possible solution.
- Link up with Keerit Singh via LinkedIn
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- Download this article and more in Global Voice magazine #10.
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