Everyone has an opinion
Our experts Marie-José Niesten and Sam Boering facilitated a workshop on gender for the Dutch Platform of International Education (PIE) and EP-NUFFIC, the organisation responsible for managing the NICHE programme in support of strengthening higher education across the world. Over 50 participants gathered in the New World Campus in The Hague on 26 January 2016 for this ‘Network event’.
Sam enjoyed the discussions about gender equity: “This subject involves everybody, it is about how you relate to the world around you. It is about understanding that there may be perspectives completely different than yours and that these differences have to do with gender, age, and position in an organisation. The moment a real discussion takes place, it is surprising to see how people get into the subject. You need someone to open your eyes to see how you can be more aware of these differences between sexes, people of different ages, people with a handicap or with homosexual feelings.”
Following a training course is not enough to bring and/or keep gender on the agenda of your organisation. You need someone to help identify the issues, and this can only be done if you have someone in management who thinks the topic is worthwhile studying, someone who understands that an organisation might benefit from understanding gender related perspectives, and addressing gender issues.
Based on the many experiences in education projects MDF Training & Consultancy has developed two helpful tools to review gender issues at the institutional level; the gender audit and the gender baseline. These tools make it possible to grasp the underlying problems that often remain “below the surface”, as these are either not easily detected or not made public. There definitely is a kind of taboo around a number of issues. For example, regarding sexual harassment on universities. Often students or teachers don’t have any faith that the organisation will deal with these issues in a sensitive and sensible manner, with the consequence that victims will not inform management and therefore no action is undertaken.
When data is being brought forward by making use of these tools, eyes are opened, especially if the issue is presented in a personal manner. “Would you send your own daughter to this university? may seem a very confrontational question, but people do understand this and relate to the issue more easily, thereby helping universities to move towards action” says Sam.
What can I do?
“Often people think these issues only apply for other countries, other organisations. But these audit and baseline tools also apply for western organisations. When I don’t know that you have a gender equity problem, than I can’t do anything about it. So it’s important to review an organisation at different levels and unexpected things will come up. It’s super interesting!” says Sam.