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  • Dakar Kopec

Equality & Equity Are Equally Important

Diversity and equity are closely related concepts that refer to different kinds of people in a given setting. Acknowledging diversity involves recognizing, understanding, and respecting people's differences, while equity involves promoting fairness and justice through the distribution of resources, services, and opportunities. Diversity and equity work together in a symbiotic relationship to ensure everyone is offered the same rights and resources regardless of gender, background, beliefs, or identity. This includes creating safe and welcoming environments, implementing nondiscrimination policies, and providing equal access to educational, employment, and financial opportunities. When we look at diversity and equity, these terms must be applied to specific professions or disciplines, and not as a broad-brush stroke across the board.

Architecture, engineering, and the medical profession have done an excellent job bringing women into their professions and fields of study through scholarships and by making them feel welcome and of value. In the architecture field, there has been a steady increase in the number of women entering this profession over the past decade. In 2018, the American Institute of Architects reported the increase of women seeking the profession was up to 36%—an increase of 10 percentage points since 2010. In the engineering field, there has also been an increase. According to the National Science Board's Science and Engineering Indicators Report, the number of women graduating with engineering degrees has increased from 18.4% in 2009 to 24.2% in 2018. This is also true in the medical field over the past decade. The American Medical Association reports that the number of women attending medical school has increased from 38.7% in 2009 to 48.6% in 2019. Likewise, female physicians increased from 24.6% in 2009 to 36.2% in 2019.

Though prevailing sexist ideologies combined with homophobia may have some influence on women, they are still entering male-dominated disciples and receiving various financial assistance to do so. Males, in contrast, have not necessarily been afforded the same opportunities to enter traditionally female-dominated professions. The professions and fields of study related to early childhood education, secondary education, interior design, and nursing lack specific measures that promote males to pursue those respective professions.

The number of men in the early childhood education field has remained relatively low. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of men working in the field has hovered around 8% for the past decade. The number of men in the secondary education field has also remained low. In 2017, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that the number of male teachers was just 15%. The number of men in the Interior Design field has also remained relatively low. A 2018 Interior Designers Association of Canada study found that only 17% of its members were male. However, in nursing, the number of men has increased slightly over the past decade. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the number of men in the profession has only increased from 8.7% in 2009 to 10.6% in 2019. Males entering the nursing profession remain an underrepresented gender in the profession.

To create a truly diverse and equitable society, we must recognize and address the historical and systemic inequities that have resulted from racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination. It would be fair to improve access to resources and opportunities for traditionally underrepresented groups by implementing anti-discrimination policies and promoting active participation in decision-making. It is also important to ensure that all individuals in each setting feel valued and respected, that their voices are heard, and that their sexual orientation or proclivities are not being assumed – meaning to assume using bias that a male interior designer is gay and male early childhood educator is a pedophile. Finally, we must recognize the power of intersectionality and consider how multiple oppressions intersect to create unique experiences.

In modern times, it seems incomprehensible that organizations would continue to fail in the promotion of gender diversity and equity within their respective disciplines. Measures to provide scholarships and mentors for underrepresented genders and media campaigns must be developed and implemented to dispel gender-based stereotypes. Additionally, organizations should focus on creating a gender-inclusive environment for all people. Lastly, organizations should be transparent about their efforts and track their progress with metrics so they too can be held accountable for any shortcomings in gender inclusion and equity.

Currently, the professions of early childhood, secondary education, interior design, and nursing continue to promote gender imbalances and sexist attitudes in their respective disciplines by failing to consider males as an underrepresented gender for any opportunities within the discipline, either financial or otherwise. All professional organizations and educational institutions are responsible to promote gender equity and diversity by providing support and resources to underrepresented genders. Additionally, professional organizations must be responsible for creating media campaigns that dispel gender-based stereotypes and sexist beliefs. To this end, professional organizations must be transparent using statistical analysis in their metrics.

Overall, males deserve to be encouraged to enter formally female-dominated disciplines similarly to the way females have been encouraged to enter traditionally male-dominated professions. Diversity and equity aren't about promoting one group over another. It's about achieving gender, ethnic, and cultural balance. The playing field must be leveled and made devoid of homophobic, racial, or ethnic stereotypes. Creating an equitable and inclusive society centered in respect, value, and equal opportunity, regardless of gender or profession, is the key to our future in the land of the free.

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