Right now — after the global pandemic has upended life as we know it and in light of the recent and ongoing protests calling for social and racial equality — organizations of all sizes and from all sectors are actively engaged in the effort to build back better. While many leaders and policy makers are well-intentioned and committed, it’s difficult to know where to begin.
Professor Sarah Kaplan
According to Sarah Kaplan, director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy (GATE) at Rotman, their first step should be to recognize the core issue and understand the scope of the problem.
“The most significant barrier to a more inclusive economy is not seeing how gender —and its intersections with race, indigeneity and other overlapping identities — is embedded in everything,” says Kaplan, a Distinguished Professor of Gender and the Economy at U of T and a professor in the Strategic Management area at Rotman. “We might think that we are designing policies and products that are gender neutral, but they end up having gendered effects, often excluding underrepresented groups.”
The evidence is all around us.
For instance, most collision testing is done with anatomically male crash test dummies and is focused on understanding how men’s bodies react during car crashes. As a result, women are at higher risk of injury or death when they get into a car accident.
Another example is facial recognition software, which is trained using a collection of images. Because a majority of these images feature white men, the technology is far less accurate at identifying women, especially women of colour.
With all this in mind, Kaplan and her colleagues at GATE are focused on introducing practitioners and organizations to the concept of Gender Analytics — the process of analyzing services, processes and policies with a gender lens to identify opportunities to innovate. By engaging learners all over the world with an innovative new online specialization and a series of public events, they are taking action with their research.
These tools and frameworks aren’t exclusively relevant to those who work in human resources or on environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives. Anyone who is involved in delivering or designing policies, products or services — in other words, everyone — needs to pay attention.
GATE has already made a big impact with its new offerings. More than 1,000 learners from around the world enrolled in the new online Gender Analytics specialization on Coursera within the first month of its launch in November 2020.
The five courses making up the specialization are taught by Rotman faculty (including Nouman Ashraf, assistant professor, teaching stream, in the Organizational Behaviour and Human Resource Management area, Brian Silverman, J.R.S. Prichard and Ann Wilson Chair in Management and Jia-Lin Xie, Magna Professor of Management) and practitioners (such as Rotman alumni Mark Leung, MBA ’06 and Nika Stelman, MBA ’16, chief of staff at BenchSci). With the support of these instructors, learners will become fluent on key Gender Analytics terms and concepts, gain hands-on experience with data collection and analysis and dive into human-centred design.
“Understanding Gender Analytics will allow practitioners to anticipate, understand and use gender-based insights to design more inclusive innovations and organizations.”
—Sarah Kaplan, Professor and Director, Institute for Gender and the Economy
“Learners can think of this as business analytics, design thinking and inclusive innovation rolled into one specialization,” Kaplan says. “Understanding Gender Analytics will allow practitioners to anticipate, understand and use intersectional gender-based insights to design more inclusive innovations and organizations.”
Kaplan hopes learners leave the course having acquired analytical techniques that help them see the world with a gender lens, aptitudes in using those insights to understand their customers or beneficiaries, and skills for designing more inclusive products, services or policies. Ultimately, they’ll have the knowledge and leadership competencies to put it all into action.
GATE plans on continuing its engagement with learners and reaching new audiences with a new virtual event series. When the pandemic forced the group to cancel its highly anticipated Gender Analytics: Possibilities (GA:P) conference, they repurposed the meeting into virtual event series. This spring, they’ll be hosting UCLA associate professor Safiya Noble and discussing her book, Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (NYU Press, Feb. 2018) — with other livestreamed panel discussions to come.
“We are using these events to bring the concept of Gender Analytics to life and show people the possibilities that can be created by incorporating intersectional gender-based analysis into their work,” says Kaplan.
All of this work aligns with GATE’s broader mission of leveraging rigorous research to change the conversation on gender equality, and specifically to understand these issues with an intersectional lens that pays attention to race, disability, immigrant status and other factors.
“We’re anticipating that thousands more learners will enroll in our courses, and we’ll be putting together exciting events throughout 2021,” says Kaplan. “Our work in Gender Analytics is one pillar of our effort to bring academic research to life in tools and insights that practitioners — business executives, non-profit leaders or government policy makers — can use in their day-to-day work.”
Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Rotman Insights »