4 Ways to Bridge the Gender Divide in a Male-Dominated Society

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From a young age, gender role stereotypes are ingrained into children and their perceptions of the world, from the clothes they wear to the toys they are given to play with. Even as they get older, children are still being dictated to regarding where their interests should lie, and the industries they should aim to get involved in, both from a professional standpoint, and a recreational one.

It is considered the norm for women to wear skirts, like bright pastel colors, and want to be nurses and housewives; while men, on the other hand, are told they should want to be risk takers, strive to be the providers of the household, and never show emotions, because those are the traits which are considered ‘masculine’.

While society has made leaps and bounds when it has come to trying to blur these gender boundaries, it is true that they still exist. Therefore, it is so important that women strive to find ways to raise themselves, and the rest of the female community, up onto an even playing field with their male counterparts.

This means working to educate others on gender equality, as well as personally participating in, male-dominated industries, whether that be for work or even just in the hobbies they choose to participate in. The more that these gender divides are tested, and the more women who stand up and refused to be put in a box which has been labeled as ‘acceptable for the feminine,’ the faster this change towards a more equal future will come about.

Working on Your Own Perceptions of Gender

Having been taught strict gender roles from a young age, many women don’t realize just how deep their internalized perceptions of ‘what it means to be a woman’ run. You may feel like you are the most progressive feminist you know; however, while in the forefront of your mind you are striving for equality, subconsciously you may well be holding onto learned perceptions that create barriers to your personal growth.

These preconceived notions can take many forms, such as feeling the need to appear less intelligent when conversing with men (or alternatively, trying hard to overcompensate and appear more intelligent), or being compelled to have children even when motherhood doesn’t fit into your lifestyle.

If you want to find ways to improve gender equality on a wider scale, the first step starts with changing your own perceptions: after all, it would be quite hypocritical to preach what you don’t practice! There are a number of ways you can look deeper into your self perceptions and ingrained views on gender roles.

For one thing, you can try to analyze your responses to topics which challenge the gender barriers; for example, do you feel surprised when you see women in typically male-dominated roles, such as firefighting or working in the armed forces? Do topics such as drag, or people undergoing sex change make you uncomfortable on some level, even when you support their right to do so? Do you feel that women are more suited to parenthood than men?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then ask yourself why that is. Try and look back and pinpoint where these perceptions are rooted, and work on trying to push past these issues. This can be done through simply talking through some of your issues with people, whether that be a counselor, or just a discussion with friends. Beyond that, you should also try and work on your self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth, as these are all factors that many women struggle with, after facing discrimination based on their femininity.

There are lots of ways you can do this, from seeking likeminded people to help you feel empowered, to trying alternative therapies (such as Reiki) which can help people work on their emotional blockages.

Making Changes in Your Home

Did you ever experience your parents telling you that playing football was for boys, and that you should play with Barbie’s rather than play sports? Were you encouraged to grow your hair long, to pinch your cheeks to give you a flush of color, or to wear skirts rather than trousers? The truth is, that children do not understand gender divides until they are taught that there is a difference between men and women.

Of course, it is important for children to learn from those around them, and pick up social cues to help them develop their own identity. However, as modern society has begun to realize, the idea ideas that women cannot act a certain way if it is not considered socially acceptable for a female to do so, is incredibly harmful and limiting to a child’s potential.

Therefore, it is important that make a conscious effort to end this cycle of teaching gender stereotypes to children. Work on being accepting of your children’s choices, because even from a young age children know their own minds.

Allow girls to do things such as play with ‘masculine’ toys, or wear clothes from the boy’s section of the store, and vice versa for you’re your sons. Even if your children are happy within their assigned gender roles (because many children are happy doing things which are gender normative), you can still help society to progress by teaching your children to be accepting of those who may not fit into social norms.

Getting Involved in Male-dominated Activities

The world of recreational activities is one which long been very divided into the categories of ‘appropriate for women’ and ‘appropriate for men’, and this is another outdated ideal which needs to be challenged. In particular, the world of sports, is an area where women are often perceived to be inferior. For a long time, the prospect of women on the soccer pitch was considered absurd, and even though now women do play a variety of sports, both recreationally and professionally, there is still a very large gender divide.

For one thing, the idea of women playing sports has become a sexually charged notion, where spectators are often watching games for the possibility of skin being on show, rather than for admiring the skill of the players. One reason for this might be that women are still considered not as able when it comes to sports as men, and are therefore encourage to participate in sports which are visually appealing for a male audience, such as volleyball, dance or gymnastics.

The issue lies not only in the recreational world, but in the professional too, as women who play sports professionally are also paid considerably less than men in industry.

So what can be done about this? Well, for one thing, women need to take up more space in the world of sports. For example, you could work to overcome the stigma around women and traditionally masculine sports, and try a new sport that you haven’t done before. Grab a pair of boxing gloves and hit the ring, or look for the best irons for beginners and head to your nearest golf course.

Challenging Stereotypes within the workplace

It is important for women to grow up with the ideal that that can do whatever they put their minds to, which means feeling confident enough to try and break into male-dominated industries which interested them. Of course, this again starts at a childhood level, but also is an ideal which can be introduced at any age as long as people remain receptive to these goals. In essence, what this means is, if you feel that you are not being treated with equality, then you should be proactive in seeking out the necessary changes to be on a level playing field with your male colleagues.

Women should never feel comfortable with being paid less than men for the exact same job role, simply because of their gender; by doing this, companies are undervaluing your skills and worth within their company. Search for jobs where you will be treated fairly and equitably, and don’t be afraid to aim high on the corporate rankings.

There are other issues within the workplace that you should be aware of too, such as sexual harassment. Of course, this is an issue that works both ways, as men too can be harassed. However, this is an issue which, historically, is a lot more prevalent when women are on the receiving end of this sexist behavior. If you are ever made to feel uncomfortable at work, don’t be afraid to seek advice and support, and take the matter into your own hands, as you have every right to do so.

Though it often seems like society has come a long way in terms of equality in the workplace, remember that until all people are able to receive the same treatment, resources, rewards and opportunities within the workplace, gender equality will not have been achieved.

Gender inequalities will only reduce when people start to actively find ways to nullify these outdated perceptions of what it means to be a man or a woman. Therefore, the best way you can help yourself and other women be viewed as nothing less than equal, is to find ways to challenge these stereotypes in your everyday life and strive to educate those around you.

Thanks to Carol

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