Conversations about gender equity and equality, no matter how difficult, pave the way for change, say the organizers of the University of Guelph’s HeForShe workshop series.
Four workshops will be offered to University students, staff and faculty during the first week of March via Zoom. The workshops are usually in-person, but the pandemic has pushed them into the digital space.
The series is facilitated by students in the Leadership and Communication course taught by Dr. Kathleen Rodenburg, professor in the Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics. This is the third year that the popular series has been offered.
“Conversation and education are critical to making any change in the world,” Rodenburg said. “Great strides have been accomplished for gender equity and gender equality through awareness and education. It does make a difference.”
HeForShe is a United Nations initiative intended to bring people together to achieve gender equality around the world. The movement is grounded in the idea that inequality is an issue that affects all people socially, economically and politically.
“The workshop series is a conversation starter,” said Rodenburg. “We want to open the dialogue to include all marginalized populations and discuss ways for us to be more inclusive as a community. How do we advocate for people who are marginalized in any way?”
The students in the class are training as potential teaching assistants for Rodenburg’s Management 1000 course next fall – a course that not only welcomes 900 first-year students to campus but also introduces them to the University’s vision and core values that are centred on “Improving Life” and “business as a force for good.”
“It’s a hands-on learning opportunity for these future leaders to try-out best facilitation skills – including creating safe spaces for other students to thrive,” Rodenburg said.
She said the workshops help participants and facilitators learn and build awareness and understanding of an extremely important topic.
“They are learning about systematic biases that are embedded in our language, they are learning about the difference between equality and equity, and they are gaining a broader understanding that comes from listening to other people’s perspectives.”
Student Nathan Muir-Creesman said, “It means starting a conversation about equality and equity for all genders and bringing to light the shocking discrepancies that exist in the workplace, school and life environments between different genders.”
Muir-Creesman believes that advocating and facilitating conversations is not only the best way to communicate the issues but also a great way to educate himself.
He said it is important that the workshops are open to all members of the University community.
“When the conversation is holistic, it allows everyone to become educated on current issues and contributes diverse viewpoints to the conversation,” he said. “The conversation allows students to voice their concerns and ideas that may help change the environment at the University of Guelph and in their future workplace. It also allows students to understand the issues that still exist regarding equality and equity in the workplace and school environment.”
As workshop spaces are limited, registration is required as follows: