- 2019 Higher Education Service Group Conference
- 19 September 2018
Conference celebrates UNISON’s work over the past 25 years to promote women’s equality and participation and to tackle sexism and sex discrimination at work, in our union and across society. Like other service groups, the Higher Education Service Group Executive (HESGE) has a majority of women members and our rules and practices to encourage women’s participation are vital to achieving our equality objectives. Likewise, in our negotiations, it is vital that we demand employers consider the impact of policies and practices on women workers and take active steps on equal pay and to tackle all forms of workplace discrimination.
Considerations of gender and monitoring of women’s progress or experiences are key to much of this. Conference notes however that an overemphasis on gender where gender has no relevance can have the unintended effect of reinforcing gender stereotypes, which in turn reinforce gender job segregation and the glass ceiling.
Conference also notes that some initiatives for women’s equality are framed as though all workers are either women or men. There is increasing recognition that some workers do not identify as having a binary gender – as being solely male or female. Instead they identity as non-binary – as neither male nor female, as both or something entirely different.
Conference believes that workers should be able to attend work according to their gender identity, whether this is female, male or non-binary. This may mean small but important changes to systems and facilities so that they are inclusive, such as:
1)Inclusive gender and title options in electronic records.
2)Checking gendered language (such as he/she, sir/madam, sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers) in policies and communications.
3)Flexibility in any gendered dress codes.
4)The option of gender neutral changing or toilet facilities.
Conference notes that gender neutral toilet and changing facilities are not a new idea. They have been commonplace in workplaces and public venues across Europe for many years. We all use gender neutral toilets every day without thinking about it, for example on trains and in our homes. Higher Education establishments and workplaces that have introduced gender neutral private cubicles with open washing spaces have found that they increase users’ sense of safety and reduce graffiti. Sometimes this option can be introduced easily by designating some facilities as gender neutral. In other buildings, it will need a redesign, to ensure facilities that are safe and accessible and provide greater privacy, such as individual lockable cubicles rather than open plan communal changing rooms.
Conference calls on the Higher Education Service Group Executive to:
A)Gather good practice examples from employers of inclusive policies and practices, including in record-keeping, language, any dress codes and in the provision of safe and accessible gender neutral facilities.
B)Promote the good practice across the service group.