Equity across the sexes exists when equal importance and value are ascribed to characteristics, behaviour and activities that are labelled as either feminine or masculine, whether they are adopted or pursued by men or women. A man or woman’s social status and opportunities do not change based upon the gender with which she or he identifies or is associated. We might also think of this as equality between women and men, in that the value and importance of what is thought to be feminine and masculine are equitably reflected at all levels of schools and communities and woven into all aspects and institutions of society, including the economy and the culture.
In a society where there is equality between women and men, girls’ and women’s specific strengths, experiences, abilities and needs are recognized, validated and accommodated. At the same time, the many human values, experiences, traits and needs that women and men share as human beings are fully acknowledged and reinforced. Those of us who are girls and women have full control over our own sexuality and bodies; we feel and are safe everywhere and at all times. We can live our lives secure in the knowledge that our physical, emotional and sexual integrity will be respected, and that we will be perceived as whole people and treated with dignity, free from sexual harassment, jeering and innuendo (see Understanding Racism, Sexism and Homophobia).
In a school setting, students who are young women and girls are included when conditions within the school enable them to overcome traditional notions and limitations of femininity and realize their full potential. They are encouraged and have real opportunities to express themselves, to develop leadership abilities, to take initiative and to participate fully in school life. They feel appreciated and accepted at school, where they see themselves reflected in all activities, both educational and extracurricular. Girls and young women feel safe in all school environments and they trust that they will be fairly treated and that their choices and experiences will always be respected and validated. They observe such equitable practices modeled by the interaction between the adults (parents and staff) in their school’s community as well.
These positive experiences and relationships are the long-term result of a continual process on the part of school staff to engage all members of the school community in efforts and dialogue to ensure a respectful, equitable and inclusive school climate. A wide range of pro-active strategies to promote equity for young women and girls in the classroom and the whole school are designed and implemented collaboratively by school staff, students and parents. All members of the school community who witness incidents of sexism, sexual harassment and violence against girls and young women react and respond consistently to ensure that they are interrupted (see Strategies for Positive Action).
- In my school, how are girls and women (students, parents, staff) included and how can I tell?
- In what ways are they (we) excluded and how can I tell?
- How can (or how does) my school benefit from promoting equality between men and women and between girls and boys?