In today’s newspaper, discussions avail over the absence of Tory women in the Cabinet. But is this breaking news or a case of old habits die hard? Is it acceptable or is it cause for concern? Debate rages in the broadsheets and beyond discussing whether the prime minister is “too relaxed about equality” and so on and so forth but how important is it to focus on this row in terms of what it means to our children? How important is it to try and bring up our children (boys and girls the same) in a gender equal society and what does it mean for their development and their future prospects?
Without a doubt, any element of inequality is cause for concern in society. It can smack of discrimination and prejudice and as such bias the attitudes that get passed down to our children. Children are not immune from making prejudicial stereotypes or discriminating against others and to this end need to be brought up in communities that do not buy into sexism or, come to mention it, any other sort of discrimination. Children learn from their environment and through the observations they make. This is the fundamental basis of social learning theory which states that attitudes are learnt through association, reinforcement and modelling. They will imitate what they see, have it reinforced by the actions of others and make their associations between attitude and different groups based on what their observations. To this end, it is therefore vitally important, that children are exposed to maxims of equality in their everyday life.
Taking this a step further, this means that children need to be in brought up in communities and social arenas that value a stance against discrimination and prejudice and be surrounded by those who work valiantly to ensure that balance between the sexes amongst other areas is sought after. In the everyday situations that children are exposed to, they need to see equality in operation – at home, at school, in the larger community, they need to experience a society that runs in way that respects the sexes and responsibly works hard to ensure that the belief of egalitarianism is honoured. Where this is jeopardised, effort needs to be put into place to bring the balance back into equilibrium.
So for instance, consider how family life runs – does it honour equality? What attitudes prevail that the children will mimic? In our schools and local communities, how equal is the set up? A recent survey of 6 schools locally to us revealed that their managing boards (ie governing bodies) varied widely in the split of males and females ranging from one school that only had 18% female representation to another where the balance was a more equal. It is essential that these committees honour equality for their policies and ethos affect children and create the environments in which they are nurtured so that the prevailing attitudes that are handed down pave pathways into the future that do not side with discrimination and prejudice.
Children are at the coalface of our choices as adults whether we are a school or whether we are parents in the homes that raise these children to bring them up to truly understand the value and importance of equality. If we don’t exhibit fairness, equality and turn our backs on discrimination and prejudice then how can we expect our children to grow up to do the same. To each and every one of us then, from organisations to each individual, the gauntlet of responsibility lies with each of us. Strive for equality and do not rest until it is achieved so that our children grow up embracing the rights of each and every member of society in a world where discrimination and prejudice have no place.