If you don’t think gender inequality (in Learning Technology) is an issue that concerns you, this post is especially for you. Welcome!
For those readers who are already interested in this topic, welcome back. It’s been a #femEdTech kind of year 🙂
For the last few years I have been actively involved as a volunteer in community efforts to promote gender equality in Learning Technology but this year my day job as CEO of the Association for Learning Technology took on a decidedly more #femEdTech flavour.
Now, it’s important to acknowledge that gender inequality is certainly not the only issue we are facing in Learning Technology and that there are other forms of inequality and discrimination that we need to continue to address and challenge.
But nonetheless it remains an issue from the gender pay gap to the gender data gap, representation at conferences and on executive boards, in policy making, on social media and so forth.
As I am in a position of relative privilege I can often exert influence over who I work with, who gets invited and who has a voice in what I do. But as soon as I leave my sphere of influence I am back to being the token female speaker on the agenda, the only woman around the table, the woman who gets trolled. Sigh. Sometimes cry. Often shout!
In this post, I am going to share the key pieces of my work on equality in Learning Technology from 2019. I hope they will be useful to you to explore, share, reuse:
My year started at with a talk that brought together the threads of community, openness and equality:
Community, Openness, Equality: a keynote in three hashtags #SocMedHE18 (talk, video): Social Media for Learning in Higher Education conference, 9 January 2019.
Promoting equality in a distributed organisation, joint keynote with Martin Hawksey for International Women’s Day, University of the Highlands and Islands, 8 March 2019; this particular talk and the work we presented from the ALT Annual Survey provided a basis for other talks later this year, particular in relation to exploring a gender perspective of the professionalisation in Learning Technology, job roles and changes to this over the past 5 years:
Who’s responsible for the future of open? #femedtech #oer19, contribution to #femedtech Open Space for OER19 conference; this is a short post I contributed to the #femedtech Open Space for the OER19 Conference in which I reflect on the importance of engagement:
“… the only rule is to make use of your voice, to continue to engage and question, not to become indifferent or disengaged no matter how difficult that can seem at times. …It is, for me, a powerful reminder that we each have agency, and that taking part, contributing something that helps others understand our way of seeing the world, our perspective on open, our world view (as a women, as a feminist, as a contributor in my case) is a meaningful and important act.”
And this certainly isn’t limited to the work we do here in the UK, or even the #femEdTech network, as there are many other communities and projects with similar aims.
Continuing this thread and responding to the many requests for further information we received following the talk on International Women’s Day, we ran an online session to share more of the survey work: Webinar: Equality in Learning Technology: New insights from ALT’s Annual Survey, with Martin Hawksey, 15 May 2019 and I was also invited to speak at a very interesting event on Technology and Education: opportunities and challenges for equality at the University of Sussex, 17 May 2019.
The #femEdTech network is made up of activists all of whom ‘represent’ the network in their own contexts. But we, and who that ‘we’ is changes quite often, get regular requests to write about what we do and I volunteered to write this particular post: Building a Network for Curation – the #femedtech movement, blog post for WCET, 22 August 2019; the post gives a short summary of what the network is, what activities members engage in and examples of the types of things we have done in the past.
And that really set the tone for the remainder of the year, making the most of every opportunity to include something about equality in Learning Technology and contribute to the conversation including this post on HUMANITY OF DATA.. #ALTC on femedtech.net, 27 August 2019; and an article I wrote for the Educause Review on Learning Technology as a Professional Practice: Developing a Critical Perspective, Educause Review, 14 October 2019; and finally at Open for a cause: fostering participation in society and education, panel conversation with Lorna Campbell and Audrey Watters, Wikimedia Deutschland, 27 November 2019. This last event in particular presented a chance to speak about an exciting project that is coming up in 2020: The femedtech Quilt of Care and Justice in Open Education.
I also want to reflect briefly on how to challenge the status quo and keep going… .
Male only conference, event, panel? No!
I no longer accept invitations to male only events or panels and I always ask to see the list of speakers/full agenda. Many organisers I respond to to ask about other female speakers seemingly have not thought about this. Full stop. In many cases the conversation leads to changes to the agenda to be more balanced and I have plenty of lists of speakers I can refer them to if they are looking for speakers on particular topics. This is an old problem, but I figure that I can be one less person to accept it and if more and more people join in then ‘manels’ will soon be a thing of the past.
Women’s issue? No!
As you can see from the list above, this year I started to include something about gender equality in pretty much every talk I have given, regardless of context or audience. I reject the idea that gender equality as an issue should be confined to women’s networks or International Women’s Days etc. It’s everyone’s responsibility. It’s fundamental to the work we do in any sector. Eye rolling, sighing and other ‘oh, here she goes again’ reactions are common. Regardless of how many graphs I show or stats I include to provide a dispassionate, well-referenced and balanced argument, the uncomfortable truth is that gender equality requires change and disruption for every single one of us.
Vote = equality? No!
I often come across the perception that gender inequality is no longer a thing. That at least in the UK the fact that women have the vote means that the problem has been sorted. Be content already. This is precisely why I include something to address this misconception in every talk. I’d also recommend reading up on the research (Invisible Women – exposing data bias in a world designed for men by Caroline Criado-Perez is a good place to start).
Allies – thank you!
I am fortunately not high profile enough on social media to attract a lot of trolling, but keeping up this work year in, year out is hard enough given what I do have to contend with. Luckily I have allies, both men and women and those who identify differently, whom I am grateful for. Every time I hear their voices, see their actions, notice their efforts, I am glad that they are there. Some of them are very visible and others work behind the scenes, but all of them make a difference and they inspire me to do what I can to make change, too. Some moments of this year, like this VConnecting session at the ETUG 25th Anniversary Conference, have stayed with me:
So, gender inequality in Learning Technology, we are coming to get you… from collecting data about pay, promotions and professional practice to calling out harassment, discrimination and ignorance on the web and in the physical world.
And if it all gets too much, then there is always the #femEdTech hashtag to follow and the TAGSExplorer of wibbly wobbly equality conversations to watch as they grow and expand… here is to a very #femEdTech new year.