Many people believe that those living in western societies are living in complete gender equality – that men and women are treated the same for work opportunities to societal roles. While on a global scale it may be true, there are still a number of issues which make women less valued than their male counterparts. The largest example of these differences is through the debate surrounding the gender pay gap. In the UK, the government created a new law where all companies over 250 employees must publish the average pay for both men and women, what they found from public results is that women are more likely to be working in less senior roles and that the average pay for women in an organisation is lower than their males colleagues. In some cases, it has been discovered that some women were being underpaid for the same work carried out by their male colleagues.
While the results did raise eyebrows, much attention has been placed on the effect of subconscious bias and perhaps how different genders choose jobs and careers. Some commentators placed an emphasis on how managers may negatively view women in the workplace, seeing them as friendly, approachable, agreeable, and consequently not suitable for managerial roles, where the different attributes are desired. While it might be true in some cases, it is clear to say that a clear portion of women may not have these characteristics and therefore suitable to work in a wider variety of roles. Others argue that the imbalanced may have occurred as women tend to choose certain industries and shy away from others. An example of this is that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 73% of medical and health service managers are women. When moving on to tech startups, the percentage is just a mere 7% of employees. This difference is clear and measurable, but how and why is still being discussed and investigated.
The positive note to take away from all of this is that effort is being made on many fronts to improve the opportunities for both men and women.
Importance of teaching gender equality
As teachers, the key aspect of this debate is to ensure your students are not only learning English in an effective way but are being sufficiently challenged through a variety of topics. Some would usually be cautious when discussing societal taboos and issues, so as to prevent any chance of awkward moments and perhaps complaints to the management. As a teacher of almost a decade of experience and having the experience of teaching in conservative societies, I would still urge you to present topics which question the status quo, for the following reasons;
Society is in constant motion
It may not seem like it but every country is undergoing change. The purpose of debate is not only to field the question to those who are participating but to see how the audience reacts. Taking a vote before and after the debate is not only a way to see how effective the speakers were, but to see what the audience, who are a microcosm of society, believe and how much. When conducting debates in China, I was largely surprised how liberal the audience was.
Practice controlling emotions
Students are keen to debate and argue to display through prowess and knowledge of a subject. In fairness, the hardest part of a debate is to remain calm and dispassionate at all times.
Presenting logical arguments
If the audience and debaters feel they are arguing a subject that has a foregone conclusion, then there wouldn’t be an issue to tackle the subject. Sometimes the overconfidence that comes from thinking the fight has already been won just means the other side can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Create division for the sake of competition
Sometimes in gender debates where men and women are pitted against each other, the stakes seem a lot more personal. While this is not the intended consequence it does sometimes improve the quality of debate.
Debate topics on women and gender equality
Here we are a more or less comprehensive list of debating topics on gender and equality, which also includes some reference materials as well. Enjoy!
- This house believes that gender equality will never be obtained.
- Is women’s empowerment a myth in developing countries.
- Is educating girls and women a waste of money?
- Are men the weaker sex?
- Are we raising sexist sons and men? (free starter debate available: Are we raising sexist sons and men?)
- This house believes that women should serve in the military.
- This house believes that housewives and mothers should be paid for housework.
- Beauty pageants for women is actually empowering and not sexist.
- Women should play five sets in tennis instead of three.
- Arranged marriages are a valid way to find love.
- When attempting to create a more harmonious society, gender is a more important factor than class or income.
- Where are the female entrepreneurs?
- A woman has the sole decision in requesting an abortion.
- Men are more aggressive than women.
- Men make better sportsmen.
- Men are better in sciences while women are better in the humanities.
- Female actresses should not use their femininity to promote their themselves/career.
- Working mothers hinder their children’s development.
- Men are better in decision making roles than women.
- Universities need more female teachers while kindergartens need more male teachers.
- Toys should be gender neutral (for instance dolls are for both boys and girls).
- Prostitution should be legalised. (premium debate plan available: Legalised Prostitution)
- Marriages often fail because men seek more power in a relationship.
- Are plus-sized models a new standard for beauty?
- Is there such a thing as plutonic friendships?
- This house believes that women are better communicators.
- This house believes that corporate office culture is sexist and discriminates against women.
- This house believes that there are “jobs for men” and “jobs for women”.
- This house believes that women are vainer than men.
- Should women stay at home and look after children and forgo their careers?
That’s the list for the moment. We are sure to add more as and when we are able to think of more. Please do add your own ideas below and tell us how your class debate went. Happy debating!
Further reading on gender and transgenderism