Last week, Roni Sue and I presented at the 18th Annual Diversity Conference in Salem. Our workshop was titled Gender Equity in the Workplace: Exploring effective policies and practices. The name of the session might seem pretty straightforward, but I imagine a few of the participants were surprised by the content.
What Roni and I really wanted to talk about was a new vision for addressing gender equity that recognizes two key concepts. First, “gender” is more complex than is typically understood. Second, a single aspect of identity is neither experienced apart from other identities nor is it experienced the same way by everyone who shares that identity.
It sounds complicated, but the point we were trying to make was that achieving equity, with regard to gender or any other identity, requires an integrated approach. Of course, this is the same challenge we are currently facing as we endeavor, at least on a transitional basis, to incorporate the work of three formerly separate offices into a more unified agenda for equity and inclusion.
While we believe that in order to be effective we must understand the ways in which individuals’ identities may be nuanced, intersecting, contextual, and overlapping, we also recognize the personal, social, and political significance with which identities may be imbued. While we each have multiple identities, at times we may find a particular identity to be most “salient” (a fancy term used by scholars to mean relevant or prominent).
When we, as individuals, identify a particular aspect of ourselves as important, we want to make sure that it will be recognized, valued, and understood, not minimized, disregarded, or obscured. So, how do we, as the Office of Equity and Inclusion, continue to recognize an aspect of identity, such as gender, that many members of the community identify as salient, while also enacting an integrated approach to equity and inclusion?
The answers to that question are complex, and various approaches are best decided on through continued engagement with those individuals and communities that have an interest in the outcome. We do have some ideas that we’d like to share at our next lunchtime forum on Tuesday, October 18, 2011 from 12:00-1:30pm in room 206 of the Memorial Union. In fact, we’re dedicating the entire forum to the topic: Addressing gender equity in a transitional, integrated approach to equity and inclusion.
In the meantime, if you have questions about the work formerly performed by the Office of Women’s Advancement and Gender Equity, please contact Anne Gillies at 541-737-0865. Please also be sure to check out our website for more information about what we’re doing to address gender equity.