Tag: gender equality

Between Gender Pronouns and Spelling People’s Names

I had been seeing a lot of social media profiles with a ‘He/Him’ or ‘She/Her’ mentioned alongside the name, but didn’t completely understand the purpose. A close friend recently explained them as gender pronouns. Given in particular the LGBTQ+ community, the world needs to become increasingly sensitive to the different gender pronouns. Affixing it to one’s name could be considered a global effort towards creating more awareness about the diversities and subtleties of gender.

To make it a bit clearer, in the past, the powers that were, often kept pronoun references intentionally (and forcefully) simple (he/him and she/her), irrespective of how an individual identified themselves. However, with greater acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community across the world, we need to move toward a world that recognizes and appropriately addresses different individuals, so as not to be impolite. Currently, for those who don’t identify as male or female, use ‘They/Them/Their’ pronouns. Perhaps with time there might be more unique ways to identify each type in the LGBTQ+ community. The current habit of individuals mentioning their individual set of pronouns online is an effort to help sensitize the world community to pay more attention to gender differences. I have a lot to learn about this myself, but thought I’d share the little I know. And a question at the end.

In recent times, the world has become increasingly careless about people’s names – from not capitalizing the first letter, to getting the spelling wrong, or worse still, not realizing after having spelt it incorrectly (to be able to apologize and correct the mistake). Relatives sometimes misspell my name. And if you remove the last ‘n’, it is a girl’s name here in India.
Two amusing personal incidents came to mind around this.

I was once moderating a panel discussion around design thinking at a conference, and the organizers had managed to misspell my name on the placard and not realize it. I’m not affected by my name being misspelt, so I simply turned the placard away from the audience, lest they think that was my name.

The second was even funnier. One morning, I get a feedback request call (can’t remember for what service), the conversation goes something like this:

Woman: good morning, ma’am, I’m calling from XYZ business. This is a feedback call. Is it Ms. Shruti?
Me: [wondering wtf] Hi. I think you mean Mr. Shrutin. That’s me speaking.
Woman: [very confused] Sorry sir, is Ms. Shruti there?
Me: I think you have the name wrong. It is Shrutin, and I am the one you are asking about.
Woman: [even more confused] But it says Ms. Shruti?
Me: Ma’am, do I sound like a woman to you?
Woman: No sir!!
Me: Then try and understand this, the name is Shrutin, your rep might have misspelt it as ‘Shruti’, and someone entering it into your system therefore might have conveniently added a Ms., and you are looking at it and asking for a Ms. Shruti.
Woman: [sounding relieved] Oh sorry. Got it sir. I’ll make the necessary change. So sorry again.

Which brings me to my question:

In a world that, in part thanks to social media and also our own aimless hurriedness that causes us to pay less attention to people’s names (even if they are customers or guest speakers); how easy (or not) might it be for us to start recognizing gender based pronouns and addressing people accordingly?

– Shrutin Shetty [He/Him]

SHe

SHe

Last evening, dad shared links to two tweets with me. Tweets from the UN Women and UNDP Asia-Pacific‘s accounts. Both tweets were about challenging patriarchal stereotypes this womens’ day. One of the tweets wondered if design thinking could be used to disrupt stubborn gender norms.

I don’t see why not!

Gender equality has been extremely elusive or random in society for centuries. And I really wonder how much change if any, witty memes and emotional ads can bring about. Because apart from the actual changemakers like organizations that have not blocked truly deserving women leaders from taking charge at their helm, or women of countries who have literally had to snatch their right to drive, and the small changes by individual in society, a lot of the noise is usually channelized by us only around one day in the year.

So thought I’d share a few views. In the hope we can build on them and make some real, everyday change.

Firstly, where do we start? If we’re to look at it from a design thinking point of view, best place to start is by framing the problem/ opportunity statement!

Ideally, UN’s (tweet) problem/opportunity statement is perfect – about ‘dismantling the patriarchy’. But frankly, we all know how we men have been over the centuries. Look at a developed country like the United States. It has been the world’s poster child when it comes to democracy, freedom of personal choice and expression, and a melting pot of world cultures. And yet, they still have not resolved racism, or completely legalized a woman’s freedom to abort, or rid all industries of corporate glass ceilings for women. And what’s worse, in some states, maternal mortality rates are so high, a woman might have better odds surviving childbirth in the back of a car in a third world country. None of this seems to make equality seem anywhere close, especially in still developing countries like ours.

So, while we can all behave naive and think we’re ‘driving change’ by telling regressive men and women to change; in one way or another, I’d rather frame a problem/ opportunity statement that aims at finding faster solutions than waiting for generations to pass, like we have done so far.

So, how about an opportunity statement that goes: How can everyday for a woman be made more well-balanced (as per her individual standard), so that she may live a much fuller and fulfilling life?

And some solutions or thoughts in that direction:

  • A collective online repository of household or work hackswomen from over the world can learn from or contribute their own innovative ways to balance or reclaim their average day (could be how to use an app differently, or a template to better manage schedules, or a popular service that could help outsource house chores, etc.)
  • Cook for more than one dayIf women need to cook, which often seems to be the case, they could make something for multiple days… (definitely not being pressured to cook once for every meal, as happens in some reserved communities). That way, if the men want more variety in food, they can either cook it, order home, or help with house chores to allow for more time to cook
  • Mobile apps (already mentioned in the UN article) – that make life more efficient for women, on the work or home front

Changes in a corporate culture are usually far easier to implement than at a societal level. So companies could tweak processes so as to allow women (and especially young mothers) a more flexible schedule if needed. The way corporate culture silently taught underlings to follow the boss’ instructions, we could have corporate cultures where an “express” is added to an request by a young mother. That way, she can complete the project as per her schedule, not having to wait on colleagues, thus reducing some of the chaos in her life.

The entertainment industry should really take it upon themselves to help shift world mindsets. With content they create, and more importantly, with the type of content they choose not to create or showcase.

Feel free to add to this, or get working on one or more of these. If you think I can be of any help with ideating on your change idea, drop me an email or something.

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