Journalism and gender equality

08. What is gender diversity and gender parity? /

Equality policy states that all human beings have the same rights and obligations, without discrimination. It’s simple on paper, but far more complicated in everyday life. To this end, a number of measures and tools exist to help countries to move towards the goal of gender equality. These include parity, equitable distribution between genders and gender diversity working to feminise male-dominated professions and masculinise female-dominated professions

The choice of words counts…

Gender equality, parity, equity, diversity, plurality, sharing of responsibilities, gender balance, co-education… The lexicon for addressing gender issues has been considerably enriched in recent years as thinking has matured.

But while elements of language are more varied today, the choice of words counts.

Among these words, two stand out in the gender discourse of the corporate world: “diversity” and “parity”.

Diversity and parity, knowing the difference.

Parity means that each sex is equally represented in institutions.

Laws aiming to achieve true gender equality seek to combat inequalities between men and women in the private, professional and public spheres.

Parity is an instrument at the service of equality. It consists of ensuring that men and women have access to the same opportunities, rights, opportunities to choose and material conditions, while respecting their specificities.

 A number of laws around the world have made progress towards gender equality, for example:

  • married women can freely dispose of their salary
  • women have obtained the right to vote and stand for election;
  • the principle of equal pay between men and women for work of equal value exists and is adhered to. Also, parity between men and women for electoral mandates and elective offices.

Reforms to parental leave are underway in many countries, seeking to include a period of leave reserved for the second parent; this is part of the notion of parity.

Parity is a tool for creating equality where there is power to be shared.

“Parity is an objective as much as a tool, an end as much as a means”. Parity is established to help generate equality, and the achievement of parity is a condition and sign of equality.

Parity is often a necessary – but not sufficient – condition for equality. Thus, a meeting may fulfil the condition of gender parity, but if men occupy all the decision-making roles and women all the execution roles, it will not be egalitarian. This is the case in many governments, parliaments, local and regional authorities where women remain confined to delegations or committees traditionally assigned to their “gender” (family, childhood, social affairs, etc.).

What is diversity?

Progress made in legal equality, a characteristic of democratic societies, induces new situations and ideologies about the coexistence of men and women in a common social space. It’s what we call social “diversity”.

Actually, we should be asking ourselves, “which diversity?” Research on gender diversity and work-sharing shows different, unequal forms of “diversity”.

Diversity in co-existence: the presence of men and women in the same workplace, but working in specific occupations, functions and tasks according to gender.

Diversity in working conditions: men and women occupy the same workstation, but are not given the same tasks. Job descriptions may be adjusted to take account of the supposedly innate qualities of each sex. This goes towards legitimising in the eyes of a company its differential treatment between men and women.

Examples include handling of heavy workpieces, mostly attributed to men, or conversely careful and delicate work, preferably attributed to women.

Undifferentiated diversity: men and women perform the same tasks, in the same working conditions, but remain under the strong influence of a more male-friendly environment.

Diversity in cooperation: real and genuine division of labour between men and women leading to interactivity and the transfer of each person’s particular skills to contribute to an improved working environment.

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