Opinionated Editorials
Stereotypes and Gender Fluidity in Today’s World

Stereotypes and Gender Fluidity in Today’s World

The terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are often used interchangeably, however, the two are anything but identical. While one’s sex refers to their set of biological attributes, gender is based on how society thinks one should look, think and act according to their sex. This set of social ‘norms’ pertaining to gender are imposed upon us from birth, influencing the way we are made to lead our lives and even shaping the decisions we make. The colours we dress children in, the toys we give kids, the sports we encourage, the subjects studied in schools, the interests and hobbies we’re pushed to pursue; gender roles have a part to play in all of these. The rigid application of these roles can have detrimental effects, impacting the way we perceive the world and its people.

Gender identity is about personal identity and how a person feels inside. It is not about how other people describe or label them on the outside. The way people express their gender is unique to each person – what they wear, how they cut their hair, the way they talk, walk and act. Quite often, the way that the world sees someone’s gender is based on the stereotypes and expectations that society, media and culture have forced onto the sexes, some are perceived as ‘masculine’ while others are termed ‘feminine’ in their behaviour. These stereotypes limit us and are potentially harmful as they are not an accurate reflection of human diversity and gender expression.

It is quite disconcerting to think that men and women still aren’t treated equally in the workplace. A common example being that some behaviours typically labelled as ‘assertive’ coming from a man, are often also labelled as ‘bossy’ coming from a woman. Such conditioning can be crippling to employees.

Gender inclusion has proven to be quite beneficial in the workplace setting, as well as in schools. Each gender identity has a different point of view that comes from their individual life experience. By ensuring inclusion in the employment process, the organisation can benefit from the varying life experiences of its employees to increase creativity and innovation, and also project themselves as an accepting organisation, attracting more aspirants. In a nutshell, a gender diverse workforce allows the organisation to cater to an increasingly diverse customer base.

In the classroom setting, supporting a gender diverse student body at a school is mostly about ensuring that each individual’s identity is treated as valid, which means accommodating the needs of gender diverse students, and also securing a non-discriminatory environment for them. Sadly, adolescents experience discrimination and ostracization from their peers, adversely affecting their mental health. An inclusive school environment, free from such discrimination, would help students thrive and feel comfortable expressing their gender identity.

Gender stereotyping still exists, with women being treated as inferior to men.

However, even though more than 95 percent of large American companies have diversity initiatives, women have made virtually no progress in increasing their representation in senior leadership over the last 30 years. While women continue to campaign to break the cycle of underrepresentation across male-dominated careers – and demand not to be excluded from positions of power – some girls are still likely to never set foot in a classroom. The World Bank Group estimates that globally 131 million girls remain out of school and face multiple barriers to getting a good education.  

Gender stereotypes are so ingrained in our upbringing and existence that they cause us to unconsciously see women and men as unequal. Because of the unconscious nature of gender biases, companies and schools should not attempt to “eliminate” such biases but rather to prevent these biases from influencing decisions and actions.

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