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In recent years, the concept of gender equity has gained increasing attention in popular culture. But gender equity can mean many different things to many different people; the meaning of the term is not always clear. At its root, however, gender equity refers to a belief in the fundamental equality between people of different genders.


The Connection Between Belief and Action

Of course, many people feel as though they believe in the principles of gender equality. Too often, however, it is in the subconscious biases of different people that gender equity or the lack thereof makes itself apparent.

For example, a person who has grown up in a household where men take on traditionally “masculine” roles and women take on traditionally “feminine” roles may naturally develop certain preconceptions and misconceptions about what it means to be either a man or a woman.

In adulthood, such a person may not think of themselves as a sexist. They may even be aghast at the idea that people of different genders are treated differently simply because of their genders. The notion that a woman would be turned down from a medical school simply because they are not a man might bring about a sense of injustice in this person.


Deeper Beliefs and Their Consequences

But the same person may also balk at the idea of having a manager who is a woman or a wife that is the breadwinner of the family. In a word, this person is by no means overtly discriminating against people due to their gender. But they are very much making split-second judgment calls about other people based on whether those people are men or women.

Sadly, too many of us do not make enough of an effort to examine our unconscious prejudices about different genders. And make no mistake, this kind of prejudice does lasting damage to other people.


The Effects of Gender Discrimination

Suppose for example that our daughter hears us talk about how women are just as qualified to practice medicine as men. Over time, she will likely get the idea that medicine is a potential career path for her.

Yet imagine if our daughter were to see us turn down an important surgical procedure because our surgeon is a woman. She will probably never take the prospect of studying medicine seriously again.

As in so many situations in life, in other words, what we truly believe about other people has a way of expressing itself through our behavior. To truly change our attitudes about the world, we must first seek to examine our beliefs about the world. Only then can we work towards a more fair and just society.