Gender and inclusion in civic space

Just after International Women’s Day this year, Amal Clooney, accomplished international human rights lawyer, addressed the UN. She and survivor-advocate Nadia Murad are calling for justice and accountability for the so-called Islamic State’s acts of genocide against the Ezidi community of Iraq. Time magazine was more interested in focusing on the lawyer’s baby bump.

Disappointing? Yes. Surprising? No.

It’s just one more in an endless string of examples demonstrating what a very long way we still have to go. And that's the case whether we look at the civil society sector, or politics, or the legal profession, or the media, or just about any sector or field.

But increasingly sharp and creative responses and critiques from activists, bloggers, writers, programmers, educators, and everyday people are combining to shine an ever greater light on gender bias and stereotypes. In fact, whole new vocabularies are developing to help us question 'the way things are': bropriatingbrocialismmansplainingmanterruptingmanspreading and the manosphere, for instance.

The Congratulations, you have an all-male panel Tumblr names and shames and marks for mockery those 'manels' where apparently not one single woman could be found who was qualified to speak! But even in spaces with a good participant mix, we still need to create the conditions for full engagement and inclusion. A tool like the "GenderTimer app tracks how often men and women speak in the workplace and its scarily illuminating". Or you can use this simple little web-based timer with two buttons to answer the question: "Are men talking too much?"

Sometimes it helps to see the injustice or inequality in a situation by swapping the gender or other features of key actors. This makes sense because the norms and stereotypes we’re surrounded by all our lives are so deeply ingrained. So you can imagine how strange it is to view the world as if it was inverted, when everything you read gets gender-swapped! This Jailbreak the Patriarchy extension for Google Chrome switches all gendered language on a page at the click of a button, and wow, does that make for some enlightening reading...

Many kinds of dedicated trainings, guides, tools and apps on diversity and gender are available on the web, though sometimes critical insights can come from ordinary people, bloggers, writers, activists and journalists using humour and keen insight to point out the double-standards and inequalities we've so often taken for granted.

And, in all seriousness... In case you've ever wondered, "Think you’re not sexist? Think again" is a simple step-by-step tool to read through and assess for yourself. We dare you to find out! And please let us know if you hear about other interesting tools on gender, diversity and inclusion.

Saira Zuberi