The perception of undertaking a Gender perspective among university students

Undertaking a Gender perspective makes it possible to analyse the way in which a social system is produced from both a male and a female point of view. It is a concept that has become more important as young people, who are now considered to be more liberal and demanding, have risen up to challenge inequality between women and men. But to what extent is it contemplated within the classrooms? What perception do students have of the perspective taken in their educational centres?

According to the report “¿Desenganchadas de la igualdad?” and after talking to several university students, most of them agree that teachers have adopted a greater gender perspective in the classroom compared to a couple of generations ago. However, they feel that society still encourages certain attitudes that favour men over women. Although we don’t like to admit it, sexism is still integrated in our society. The Barometer on Youth and Gender performed by the FAD Foundation in Spain states that traditional images of femininity and masculinity persist: girls are considered more “hardworking and studious” (45.7%), “responsible and prudent” (35.9%) and “smart” (38.2%), while boys are considered more “dynamic and active” (37.4%) and “workers and scholars” (33.2%). This report provides interesting data regarding the perception of gender roles in some professional settings. According to its findings, a remarkable percentage, still points to the healthcare field (32%) and education and teaching fields (24%) as most appropriate for women. The fields of Computer Science and Engineering, traditionally attributed to men, still maintain a remarkable percentage that supports this idea. That is the way it is for 38% of boys and 31% of girls (in Computing) and for the 34% of boys and 30% of girls (in Engineering).

Education helps to develop debate; after all, a discussion or a dialogue with diverse gender perspectives promotes the creation of a critical opinion on any subject. This, of course, is the first step toward deconstructing forms of discrimination against any group. Likewise, adopting a gender perspective creates the possibility of questioning the way in which we have been educated in order to establish an idea with a more equitable basis. Although this tool is obvious, the perception that students have about it, is that the current education system does not sufficiently promote the gender perspective; there are not many debates, talks and workshops and training is scarce. In many universities, both public and private, the presence of activities and campaigns in the area of gender equality is reduced to specific dates such as November 25 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) and March 8 (International Women’s Day).

The lack of diversity of teachers in certain areas of teaching also remains an issue. While there is a higher percentage of male teachers in the business and technology area, there is a higher percentage of women who teach subjects such as education, tourism, or psychology. This environment dictates the choices students make, indeed, more boys apply to technical and economic careers, while more girls apply to careers related to social sciences and humanities.

Within the curriculum, a women-related agenda is also missing. There is no doubt that certain university degrees, such as Sociology or Psychology, acquire more of a gender perspective than other studies; but, even so, students are still not satisfied with their academic training. Above all, women students highlight the lack of women mentors in areas such as Business Administration, Computer Science or Engineering of all kinds. In fact, one of my friends told me  once that whenever a business woman went to her university to give a talk about the firm she was working for, they described her more as special guest or speaker than if a man would have gone; this made her and her female classmates feel as if they were “isolated and special cases” within the working world.

However, university students perceive the language as one of the most important points when considering the gender perspective adopted in a classroom. The use of language is indeed essential as it determines the collective mentality and subsequent social behaviour.

The incorporation of gender issues in the training of young students is of great importance as the inequality between men and women results from a system of social relations and the economic and social development of a society. This is why projects such as Inspira STEAM are becoming more and more common as it favours the process of institutionalisation of a gender perspective. The application of which makes it possible to better understand discrimination and the possible ways to counter it.

Marta Urizar Fernández

Marta has a degree in Psychology from the University of Deusto. Although her future lies in the area of Human Resources, she has taken part in several volunteer projects and is currently part of the University’s Equality Unit, where she supports activities and projects related to gender equality.

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