Students’ involvement in gender equality planning needs to be strengthened

“Students in upper secondary educational institutions need to be more involved in the gender equality planning,” says JustEd member Elina Ikävalko, who will defend her dissertation on 2 September at the Institute of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki.

Elina Ikävalko

Elina Ikävalko

Currently, gender equality planning at upper secondary institutions, both general and vocational, is mostly focused on the teachers’ perspective. The students are not equally invited to participate. At the same time, the guidelines of operational equality planning emphasize the importance of the student’s involvement in the process and the need for equality-skilled workers in the labour market.

“The participation of students is done according to a ready-made model, which is not organized nor planned by the students themselves. The student is not the one who starts to create and shape the ways in which to put equality work into action in educational institutions,” Elina says.

In some institutions the students’ are not involved until the gender equality plan is finished, therefore left out of the important working process preceding the creation of the plan.

Her dissertation focuses on the practices of gender equality work by analysing gender equality planning processes in upper secondary educational institutions, both general and vocational. Its aim is to analyse the practices included in gender equality work, which may, regardless of the expressed goals, have un-equalizing consequences.

Power relations in equality working group

During her research, Elina participated in educational institutions’ working groups on gender equality, and she noticed that in these working groups there were a couple of student representatives and that the participants discussed a lot about issues concerning students. However, the discussion was mostly between teachers and led by them. In the end, the principal can decide which the most relevant goals for the equality work are.

“In the equality working group, the possibilities to refuse to undertake the tasks at hand and become a target of persuasion form the positioning’s for the working group members. The different possibilities to produce speech or silence in the group are analysed as an effect of power relations in the group,” says Elina.

In her study Elina asks what consequences instrumentalised gender equality work has for educational institutions and workplaces; how the power relations function in an equality working group of an educational institution; and what opportunities for agency arise for teachers and students in gender equality work.

“In the case of the gender equality planning in workplaces, the correctives of the gender equality act and the project form of gender equality planning turns equality work into managerialist practices, which produce a quantified, statistically controllable and instrumentalised understanding of equality. This is why gender equality does not easily become a political question within the practices of GEP,” Elina concludes.

The study shows that the subject of gender equality planning is expected to remain positive and have faith in its good-spirited co-operation, but on the other hand accept the fact that too many reformations cannot be demanded too quickly.

Read more about the dissertation here:




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