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Explore gender equality with your class

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Explore gender equality with suggested activities that take students through 5 phases of the social inquiry process.

In this social inquiry, students explore gender inequality in the workplace with a particular focus on unconscious bias and the gender pay gap. Exploring this context supports students to understand that gender inequality has a direct impact on their lives.

  • Establishing the focus for learning

    In this stage of the inquiry, students are introduced to the concepts of gender inequality, unconscious bias, and economic impact. Suggested tools include a brain-teaser, a short video, a visual image, and a sorting activity.

    The key concept of economic impact(s) should be emphasised in all stages of the inquiry.

    Encourage students to consider why gender inequality still exists in Aotearoa.

    Support students to be conscious of gender stereotypes about men and women that surface during their discussions and encourage them to challenge these stereotypes. Discuss ways that these issues might impact people of diverse genders and sexualities.

    Read 'How to beat the female leadership stereotypes in 'The Guardian'

    Activity — gender bias

    Present the following scenario to the class. Ask those who have heard it before to let their classmates solve the brain-teaser.

    A man and his son are in a car crash. The father dies at the scene and the child is rushed by ambulance to the hospital. As the child is wheeled into the operating room, the surgeon exclaims: 'I can’t operate on this boy — he’s my son!'

    Ask: How this is possible?

    Once the class has identified that the surgeon is the boy’s mother, discuss why this solution may not have been immediately obvious. (Note that an alternative solution is that the boy has 2 dads. After agreeing that this is an option, explain that in this case there's a different solution.)

    Activity — gender equity and equality

    Provide the students with definitions of gender equity and equality and support students to understand the difference between the two.

    Definitions of key gender equality terms

    Activity — gender responsibilities

    Discuss whether women and men in Aotearoa have the same rights, responsibilities, and opportunities.

    Encourage the students to provide specific examples to support their ideas.

    Activity — female opportunities

    As a class, watch #EqualFuture by Jane Campion.

    Watch #EqualFuture on YouTube (1:40)

    Discuss why, if as a group girls start life 'ahead' of boys, they later fall behind.

    Visual text exercise — How far we've come

    Activity — gender equality impact

    Explain that gender equality benefits individuals, organisations, and nations.

    Have students work in groups to complete the 'Economics impacts of gender inequality' activity. It might be helpful to discuss some strategies for identifying different levels of impact before they begin, for example:

    • economic impact on individuals — factors that relate to one person or their family
    • economic impact on organisations — factors that relate to employees and employers
    • economic impact on the nation — factors that influence the labour force (the number of people in the country who are able to work).

    Download the 'Economic impacts of gender inequality activity' (pdf, 62KB)

    Activity — gender rights

    Have the students discuss whether the economic benefits of gender equality should be the driving force for change in Aotearoa. For example, is gender equality something worth fighting for regardless? Why or why not?

  • Establishing the focus for learning

    In this stage of the inquiry, students are introduced to the concepts of gender inequality, unconscious bias, and economic impact. Suggested tools include a brain-teaser, a short video, a visual image, and a sorting activity.

    The key concept of economic impact(s) should be emphasised in all stages of the inquiry.

    Encourage students to consider why gender inequality still exists in Aotearoa.

    Support students to be conscious of gender stereotypes about men and women that surface during their discussions and encourage them to challenge these stereotypes. Discuss ways that these issues might impact people of diverse genders and sexualities.

    Read 'How to beat the female leadership stereotypes in 'The Guardian'

    Activity — gender bias

    Present the following scenario to the class. Ask those who have heard it before to let their classmates solve the brain-teaser.

    A man and his son are in a car crash. The father dies at the scene and the child is rushed by ambulance to the hospital. As the child is wheeled into the operating room, the surgeon exclaims: 'I can’t operate on this boy — he’s my son!'

    Ask: How this is possible?

    Once the class has identified that the surgeon is the boy’s mother, discuss why this solution may not have been immediately obvious. (Note that an alternative solution is that the boy has 2 dads. After agreeing that this is an option, explain that in this case there's a different solution.)

    Activity — gender equity and equality

    Provide the students with definitions of gender equity and equality and support students to understand the difference between the two.

    Definitions of key gender equality terms

    Activity — gender responsibilities

    Discuss whether women and men in Aotearoa have the same rights, responsibilities, and opportunities.

    Encourage the students to provide specific examples to support their ideas.

    Activity — female opportunities

    As a class, watch #EqualFuture by Jane Campion.

    Watch #EqualFuture on YouTube (1:40)

    Discuss why, if as a group girls start life 'ahead' of boys, they later fall behind.

    Visual text exercise — How far we've come

    Activity — gender equality impact

    Explain that gender equality benefits individuals, organisations, and nations.

    Have students work in groups to complete the 'Economics impacts of gender inequality' activity. It might be helpful to discuss some strategies for identifying different levels of impact before they begin, for example:

    • economic impact on individuals — factors that relate to one person or their family
    • economic impact on organisations — factors that relate to employees and employers
    • economic impact on the nation — factors that influence the labour force (the number of people in the country who are able to work).

    Download the 'Economic impacts of gender inequality activity' (pdf, 62KB)

    Activity — gender rights

    Have the students discuss whether the economic benefits of gender equality should be the driving force for change in Aotearoa. For example, is gender equality something worth fighting for regardless? Why or why not?

  • Finding out information

    In this stage of the inquiry, students investigate impacts of gender inequality in Aotearoa, including the ideas and actions of groups working to promote gender equality.

    Activity — gender inequality

    Have students investigate the following questions, or others that the class comes up with, to learn more about gender inequality in Aotearoa New Zealand.

    • How is gender inequality measured?
    • What aspects of gender inequality have economic impacts? What are some other impacts of gender inequality?
    • How does Aotearoa compare with other countries in terms of gender equality?

    Cross-curricular — maths has some activities that students can do.

    Activity — gender and political responses

    Have students investigate how different political parties have responded to the issue of gender inequality.

    For example, students could investigate the Equal Pay Amendment Bill. This is also a useful way for students to understand how the members' bill ballot system works.

  • Finding out information

    In this stage of the inquiry, students investigate impacts of gender inequality in Aotearoa, including the ideas and actions of groups working to promote gender equality.

    Activity — gender inequality

    Have students investigate the following questions, or others that the class comes up with, to learn more about gender inequality in Aotearoa New Zealand.

    • How is gender inequality measured?
    • What aspects of gender inequality have economic impacts? What are some other impacts of gender inequality?
    • How does Aotearoa compare with other countries in terms of gender equality?

    Cross-curricular — maths has some activities that students can do.

    Activity — gender and political responses

    Have students investigate how different political parties have responded to the issue of gender inequality.

    For example, students could investigate the Equal Pay Amendment Bill. This is also a useful way for students to understand how the members' bill ballot system works.

  • Exploring values and perspectives

    In this stage of the inquiry, students explore values and perspectives related to gender inequality.

    Exploring perspectives — teacher support has more information, including support for the activities.

    Activity — gender views

    Ask students to write 2 or 3 statements that reflect their views on women and work. Encourage them to explain why they hold these views, for example:

    • I think that...
    • I think this because ...

    Activity — Harvard gender test

    Have students attempt Harvard University’s online gender test that explores people’s unconscious biases towards women and work.

    Note that the results are based on the number of mistakes participants make and the speed at which different words are categorised.

    Harvard's Implicit Association Test

    Have students submit their results on unnamed slips of paper. Collate and summarise the results and discuss them as a class. Do the results reveal any biases towards women and work?

    Use the results to discuss the difference between a person’s viewpoint (opinion or preference) and their perspective (world view or ideology).

    Ask students to write a reflection on the relationship between the statements they made about women and work and the results of their implicit association test (or the class results).

    Activity — gender study

    Use the Yale University study on gender biases within science to demonstrate ways that unconscious biases can lead people to make decisions that may contradict their conscious views and values.

    Read the Yale University study

    Understanding the context — the gender pay gap has more about the Yale study.

    Activity — gender perspectives

    Give each student a copy of the 'Gender inequality: Perspectives' activity. In this activity, students identify which perspectives underpin different responses to gender inequality. 

    Download the Gender inequality: Perspectives activity (pdf, 98KB)

    Exploring perspectives — teacher support has extra support for this activity.

  • Exploring values and perspectives

    In this stage of the inquiry, students explore values and perspectives related to gender inequality.

    Exploring perspectives — teacher support has more information, including support for the activities.

    Activity — gender views

    Ask students to write 2 or 3 statements that reflect their views on women and work. Encourage them to explain why they hold these views, for example:

    • I think that...
    • I think this because ...

    Activity — Harvard gender test

    Have students attempt Harvard University’s online gender test that explores people’s unconscious biases towards women and work.

    Note that the results are based on the number of mistakes participants make and the speed at which different words are categorised.

    Harvard's Implicit Association Test

    Have students submit their results on unnamed slips of paper. Collate and summarise the results and discuss them as a class. Do the results reveal any biases towards women and work?

    Use the results to discuss the difference between a person’s viewpoint (opinion or preference) and their perspective (world view or ideology).

    Ask students to write a reflection on the relationship between the statements they made about women and work and the results of their implicit association test (or the class results).

    Activity — gender study

    Use the Yale University study on gender biases within science to demonstrate ways that unconscious biases can lead people to make decisions that may contradict their conscious views and values.

    Read the Yale University study

    Understanding the context — the gender pay gap has more about the Yale study.

    Activity — gender perspectives

    Give each student a copy of the 'Gender inequality: Perspectives' activity. In this activity, students identify which perspectives underpin different responses to gender inequality. 

    Download the Gender inequality: Perspectives activity (pdf, 98KB)

    Exploring perspectives — teacher support has extra support for this activity.

  • Considering responses and decisions

    In this stage of the social inquiry, students explore responses (decisions and actions) of individuals or organisations in relation to gender inequality, and in particular the gender pay gap. Encourage students to explore how people’s values and perspectives influence their responses and to discuss what the impact of these responses might be.

    Activity — Treat Her Right campaign

    Show students the promotional video for the Treat Her Right campaign.

    Treat Her Right, 2017 (YouTube 0:58)

    The website also includes a timeline of changes to women’s rights in Aotearoa and ways to take action in response to gender inequality.

    Explain that The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions Te Kauae Kaimahi (CTU) has commissioned the campaign to inform and educate the public about equal pay.

    Give students time to explore the site. Have them discuss what impact they think the campaign might have.

    Activity — gender equality promotion

    Working in groups, have students investigate other organisations that are working to promote gender equality, for example:

    • National Council for Women New Zealand (NCWNZ)
    • Unions, for example, the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions Te Kauae Kaimahi (CTU); the New Zealand Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi (PSA); New Zealand Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA)
    • Human Rights Commission (HRC)
    • Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA)
    • Ministry for Women Te Minitatanga mō ngā Wāhine.

    Have groups choose an organisation to focus on and then investigate:

    • why the organisation thinks addressing gender inequality is important
    • the strategies they recommend to address it
    • the actions the organisation is taking in response to gender inequality in Aotearoa.

    Activity — Kristine Bartlett's campaign for equal pay

    The change-makers page in this resource focuses on Kristine Bartlett’s campaign for equal pay. The campaign took 5 years, 3 court cases, and 2 appeals before a settlement was reached.

    Information and activities about Kristine Bartlett's equal pay case

  • Considering responses and decisions

    In this stage of the social inquiry, students explore responses (decisions and actions) of individuals or organisations in relation to gender inequality, and in particular the gender pay gap. Encourage students to explore how people’s values and perspectives influence their responses and to discuss what the impact of these responses might be.

    Activity — Treat Her Right campaign

    Show students the promotional video for the Treat Her Right campaign.

    Treat Her Right, 2017 (YouTube 0:58)

    The website also includes a timeline of changes to women’s rights in Aotearoa and ways to take action in response to gender inequality.

    Explain that The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions Te Kauae Kaimahi (CTU) has commissioned the campaign to inform and educate the public about equal pay.

    Give students time to explore the site. Have them discuss what impact they think the campaign might have.

    Activity — gender equality promotion

    Working in groups, have students investigate other organisations that are working to promote gender equality, for example:

    • National Council for Women New Zealand (NCWNZ)
    • Unions, for example, the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions Te Kauae Kaimahi (CTU); the New Zealand Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi (PSA); New Zealand Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA)
    • Human Rights Commission (HRC)
    • Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA)
    • Ministry for Women Te Minitatanga mō ngā Wāhine.

    Have groups choose an organisation to focus on and then investigate:

    • why the organisation thinks addressing gender inequality is important
    • the strategies they recommend to address it
    • the actions the organisation is taking in response to gender inequality in Aotearoa.

    Activity — Kristine Bartlett's campaign for equal pay

    The change-makers page in this resource focuses on Kristine Bartlett’s campaign for equal pay. The campaign took 5 years, 3 court cases, and 2 appeals before a settlement was reached.

    Information and activities about Kristine Bartlett's equal pay case

  • Taking action

    In this stage of the inquiry, students explore ways to respond to what they have learnt through the social inquiry process. This stage is sometimes referred to as the 'So what? Now what?' stage of the inquiry.

    Activity — follow-up

    Students could:

    • invite female leaders from business, science, construction, or other areas to speak at assemblies
    • organise a workshop for students that focuses on employment rights and how to negotiate for pay
    • work with school leaders to establish a gender-equality policy.

    Examples of gender-equality policies include:

  • Taking action

    In this stage of the inquiry, students explore ways to respond to what they have learnt through the social inquiry process. This stage is sometimes referred to as the 'So what? Now what?' stage of the inquiry.

    Activity — follow-up

    Students could:

    • invite female leaders from business, science, construction, or other areas to speak at assemblies
    • organise a workshop for students that focuses on employment rights and how to negotiate for pay
    • work with school leaders to establish a gender-equality policy.

    Examples of gender-equality policies include: