When I began my own company, I discovered that helping people communicate effectively is a true skill–and that skill is especially valuable when it comes to building inclusive communities. Don’t let the headlines get you down: there are a lot of people out there who want to do better–they want to understand someone else’s experience; they want to be respectful; and they want to clearly articulate their own experience.
Gender is one of these topics that people want to talk about more effectively–in a more inclusive way. As gender studies experts, Jessica and I help people do just that. We began to do Gender Inclusivity Assessments in 2018 because we saw a real need. People wanted to know–what in our language or organizational culture is unintentionally biased? Do we make assumptions about men and women that limit people’s potential? Basically, how can we do better in a world that struggles to make equal space for women, girls, non-binary folks, and the LGBTQI community more broadly?
Our approach is this: gender inclusivity is good for everyone. It breaks down barriers. It brings us closer. It prevents people from living lives limited by cultural stereotypes. And it offers us–adults–a way to communicate better with younger generations who see the world in a much more open way than we did growing up.
As parents, Jessica and I saw a need for inclusivity trainings and assessments in schools. School communities have seen an increase in the number of non-conforming families who are seeking a supportive school. Our customized assessment is a great way to build a welcoming community.
But if you just want to know some strategies for being more inclusive, here are some questions to ask yourself:
1 – Have you ever assumed that something your child does is only because of their gender? (i.e., My daughter doesn’t like to wash her hair. It must be a girl thing.) Consider ways to notice your child’s idiosyncrasies without tying them to their body.
2 – Did you know that “they” as a singular pronoun has a long history in the English language? Don’t stick to some old grammar rule that never was. They is far easier–and more inclusive. (i.e. Has your child brought their permission slip?)
3 – Do you talk about different types of families without shame or judgement? (i.e. John has two moms. Callie lives with her dad and her grandmother. Ethan’s parents live in two different houses.) The make up of families is different for every child. You can build that child’s confidence and open your child up to deeper friendships by talking about these differences in a matter of fact way.
4 – Have you reviewed your child’s books? Are female children often the main character? Do your children’s books contain a variety of types of people–skin colors, family makeup, and gender? Do any of your children’s books show boy characters who experience emotion? It’s surprising sometimes when we start to examine the limits of the stories we tell.
What we’ve found at Sagely is that fighting sexism is a goal almost everyone wants to get behind. Gender inclusivity is the first step. And achieving that is all about better communication. When we examine the limits of the stories we’ve been told, we open new possibilities for stories yet to be written.