In order to build a sustainable future, opportunities for improved well-being must be available to people of all genders. In fact, without gender equity, sustainable development is not possible.
Gender equity occurs when people of all genders are treated fairly in accordance with their needs. This is relatively hard to accomplish in a society where inequities in relation to gender still exist. These inequities stem from a variety of systems in place that discriminate based on gender due to the prevalence of patriarchal societies, that is, a society where a male-identifying person acts as the dominant authority. These inequities prevent people from accessing and obtaining resources, opportunities, and even rights. Policies that reinforce inequities include not allowing women to vote, disallowing men from taking childcare leave, or denying transgender people access to a bathroom.
In today's society, the views on gender are upheld by a system of gender norms, rules or expectations created by society that tell humans they need to act a certain way because of their gender. For instance, looking at gender in a binary view, there is a rigid idea that male identifying people must be masculine (i.e. muscular physically and hard emotionally) and there is a rigid idea that female identifying people must be feminine (i.e. soft emotionally and thin physically). These ideas are gender norms which have been ingrained into society through the stigmas placed around the jobs and educational paths different genders tend to take (i.e. construction is seen as a job for someone who identifies as male and childcare is seen as a job for someone who identifies as female).
These gender norms have resulted in biases ingrained into society about people of certain genders who attempt to enter fields of work in which their gender identity does not match the gender identity usually associated with that field of work. For instance, in a study done by Harvard Business Review and the Association for Women in Science, in STEM careers, it was found that two-thirds of the women interviewed and two-thirds of the women surveyed reported having to prove themselves over and over again - their successes discounted, their expertise questioned. This figure was even larger for women of color.
The big question here: if women and people who are non-binary identifying are not educated on sustainability or are not being listened to about their findings related to sustainability, how can we, as a society, ensure that the future of the planet is secure?
To build a sustainable future, people of all genders must be included in solutions and decision-making for improved, economic, social, and environmental well-being. Education is the key to understanding sustainability and ensuring that people all over the world follow and push for sustainable practices.
Changes are slowly being made to create equitable opportunities for both men and women in that educators around the world are starting to focus on gender equity in their courses; however, it takes more than that to change society's perceptions of gender and achieve gender equality.
Important elements that create lasting change include breaking the cycle of poverty (in that, women form a higher percentage of the 1.5 billion people living below the poverty line than men), investing in education, promoting women's health, and ultimately transforming perceptions of gender in the form of challenging gender norms. If we are able to accomplish these things, we can support gender equity and move faster towards a sustainable future.