Resources, cooperation, and continuous work are required to achieve gender equality in different domains of life such as education, work, health, and power. For education, training, youth and sport the project funding provided by Erasmus+ programme is one platform to promote gender equality. A brief overview of how gender awareness and gender equality have been enhanced by Erasmus+ -funded projects is provided in this article. The particular focus in this article is on the learning environments that projects have designed and developed for raising gender awareness.
Author: Maisa Anttila
What is gender awareness?
European Institute for Gender Equality defines gender awareness raising as approach that promotes and encourages general understanding of gender-related challenges and understanding of the influence of values, norms, and stereotypes to our reality, and how they support the structures that produce inequalities (EIGE 2023a). In Finland Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare defines gender awareness as being aware of different genders (including gender diversity) and gender norms in society and being able to identify and critically analyse gender norms, stereotypes and prejudices in everyday life (THL 2022).
Gender equality is a core value of democratic societies and part of the sustainable development goals of the United Nations (2023). Promoting inclusion and equity is also a priority of Erasmus+ programme (European Commission 2023). At practical level, gender awareness skills are important not only for teachers, trainers, social or youth workers but for professionals working for example in HR-management, communication, public services, and media industry as well. For example, gender awareness raising is one method of gender-mainstreaming, that is a strategy and approach applied into policies, programmes and regulatory measures (EIGE 2023b). Labour shortages have motivated employers to use gender aware ways to encourage new students and employees to the field. Overall, the basic understanding of norms, stereotypes, and other social structures, is important general working life and critical thinking skill for all.
How to learn gender awareness
Learning gender awareness begins with getting to know gender-related reliable information, facts and evidence, such as gender differences in education, health, working life and power. And one way to raise gender awareness in society is to provide reliable and accessible information of gender equality (EIGE 2023a). Equally important is to identify and reflect one´s own attitudes and beliefs related to. In addition to knowledge about gender equality, ability to use different tools and methods to enhance gender equality in practice is at the core of gender awareness. There are various ways to promote change in attitudes, behaviours and beliefs, depending one´s own profession, position and working environment, and whether the aim is to impact individuals, organisations, other communities or politics.
As in teaching and learning in general, the learning environment matters also when addressing gender equality. Learning environment can be understood as places and spaces that enhance learning and which are healthy, safe and accessible. On the other hand, learning environment can refer to practices, communities, tools and supplies with the help of and through which learning, and interaction takes place (Jalonen & Sjöström 2023). One way to understand learning environment is to divide it to physical, psychological (cognitive and emotional) and social learning environment (Opetushallitus 2023). Today learning environments can be more various than ever from online and virtual environments to on-the-job learning. What are the common learning environments provided for learning or promoting gender equality in Erasmus+ projects?
Learning environment for gender awareness
Many Erasmus -funded projects have focused on enhancing gender equality by developing online-learning environments and digital materials for young people, students, and educators. For example, the project “The Fostering Women to STEM MOOCs” developed Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to propose Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects free of gender stereotypes. The project also provided a toolkit for the development of MOOCs with gender aware perspective. In practice the toolkit is a gender-balance checklist for content and storytelling, gender-aware language and use of images and visual materials (FOSTWOM 2022). Fostering women to study STEM has been the objective of other projects as well, such as No Gender Gap! (2023) project that aimed to attract women to study ICT with MOOC about Robotics and Coding. Coding4Girls (2020) project developed learning methods integrating design thinking and serious game approach for learning programming skills to break down the gender segregation of computer science. An online course “How to make men more gendered?” for general public dealing with the issue of male participation in gender equality was one key result of a project How to Involve Men in Gender Issues and Get Their Support (2022).
What comes to increasing gender awareness skills of teaching and guidance professionals, different online tools are available: for example, digital self-assessment tools and teaching materials, a MOOC about inclusive education in higher education and training course for learning designers and academics, and a MOOC for adult educators on how to coach women towards employment in the digital sector of the labour market (Fairness in Teaching 2023; InclusiveHE 2023; Go-Digital 2021).
Many completed or on-going projects have focused on developing digital learning environments. The advantage is that online courses and materials are easy to access, available for learning independently and year-round. Raising gender awareness does not depend on the lack of information and material. However, less is known about the effectiveness of online learning environment in changing attitudes, how learners perceive them as psychological and social environment, and whether the online environments are attractive enough to engage not-that-interested students and teachers to gender equality work. That is why innovative and different learning environments and approaches are needed to find a way to engage wider community to promote gender equality.
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EIGE. 2023b. Gender awareness-raising. Cited 14.2.2023. Available at https://eige.europa.eu/gender-mainstreaming/what-is-gender-mainstreaming
European Commission. 2023. Erasmus+ Programme Guide. Cited 14.2.2023. Available at https://erasmus-plus.ec.europa.eu/programme-guide/part-b/key-action-2/cooperation-partnerships
Fairness in Teaching. 2023. Ensure Fair Teaching Practices. Cited 14.2.2023. Available at https://www.fairnessinteaching-project.eu/
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Maisa Anttila is working as a RDI Specialist at LAB University of Applied Sciences.
Illustration: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/1629588 (CC0)
Reference to this article
Anttila, M. 2023. An overview of raising gender awareness in Erasmus+ projects. LAB Pro. Cited and the date of citation. Available at https://www.labopen.fi/lab-pro/an-overview-of-raising-gender-awareness-in-erasmus-projects/