The importance of empowering the next generation when it comes to tackling gender inequality

 

What do you think of when you hear the word feminist? Unfortunately, for some this word has stale, negative connotations; of an old woman surrounded by cats complaining about the state of the world, perhaps. Well, this misconception needs to be scrapped. A feminist is simply a person who supports feminism. And what is feminism? The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. A simple and justified belief.

Yet, frustratingly, even in this day and age, men and women do not have equal rights and opportunities. We see it in science, in academia, in the workplace, in politics…we see it everywhere. Whether it be a gender pay gap, a promotion given to a man less qualified than his female colleague, misogynistic behaviour, debates in the media on the need for women to wear high heels and makeup to appear ‘professional’ and presentable’…the list goes on.

The situation needs to change, dramatically, and the only way to achieve equal rights for men and women is continue to fight, like so many have before us. To win the fight, we must have knowledge, as knowledge brings power, so education is key.

An important demographic of the population to focus on is the next generation of women and men. This generation will have its own struggles given the political climate and continued inequality. They will be on the front line and if they are armed with knowledge they will have a chance of finally achieving equality. It is our duty to teach the next generation about the importance and unwavering relevance of gender equality and educate them about the cause and what it truly means.

With the prolificacy of social media, young people have a number of tools at their fingertips they can use to be inspired and engaged. Via social media, we now find ourselves connected with role models at the click of the finger. Whether it be inspiring tweets, Instagram photos celebrating women’s bodies in the prolific online ‘bopo’ community, or online petitions crusading for gender equality, we have access to an array of tools and information. Let’s teach these young women to follow their role models and get involved in the gender equality debate; to get outside of their four walls and participate in events, marches and fundraising and speak up.

Natalie Haigh, a young girl from Denmark with a burgeoning passion for gender equality, contacted Science Impact to find out if she could get free tickets to attend the STEM Gender Equality Congress last week, and we obliged, gifting her with a pair of tickets for her and her father. The 13-year-old told us that she herself has seen gender inequality first hand and believes there is a strong correlation between achieving gender equality in STEM and the world beyond: “I really wanted to go to this conference because it was about how to enforce gender equality in STEM, which I feel connects very well with how to enforce it in our everyday lives.”

Natalie calls herself a feminist and is proud to do so, and she has an admirable desire to promote gender equality on a large scale: “It’s been in my nature for ages now to be a feminist, to try and enforce gender equality. I’ve known for a long time that I have wanted to help on a larger scale as well though. So to do that, I want to broaden my knowledge,” she told us. “I want to learn. Attending the STEM Gender Equality conference in Berlin is one of the most exciting and grand ways I will ever learn. So that’s what I’m coming to do. To learn.”

So let’s encourage the girls and boys and men and women around us, our friends, our daughters and sons, to proudly call themselves feminists and help educate them so that they can play their part in furthering women’s rights and achieving gender equality. Let’s ignite a spark within the younger generation that will never go out.