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Equity in Training, part 2: Three important lessons learned from a pilot

Published: Friday, January 29, 2021
Updated: Friday, July 30, 2021

In my previous blog I shared that a Gender Equity in Training Pilot was part of my research. The aim was to share academic insights about the impact of gender in training. But also, to discuss how to design and facilitate training that is gender equitable. The pilot had a blended format with self-study and reflection, online discussion forums, and three virtual meetings. A group of highly committed trainers from four countries participated and I would like to share some of our learnings.

Lesson 1: We don’t know what we don’t know

If I could summarize the feedback after the pilot in one sentence it would be: “I really had no idea….”. Or, as one of the trainers mentioned on the feedback form, "The programme made me realize that I was looking but not seeing”.  The insights that were most valued were:

  • The meaning of sex and gender, especially as the terminology is often complex and controversial;
  • The socially constructed nature of sex/gender and the challenges to the traditional sex/gender binary (female/male);
  • The importance of intersectionality, meaning that social categories such as race, ethnicity, gender and class are connected and mutually reinforcing in their impact on (in)equity;
  • The role of sex/gender in all elements of training (work environment, trainee characteristics, training design and training outcome) based on 20 years of academic research;
  • Over 25 suggestions on how our training can become more equitable, ranging from the practical to the ideal, or the beliefs and values that are the foundation of our training programmes.

Lesson 2: We should leverage available research and insights

‘Standing on the shoulders of giants’. A metaphor used to express that, to make progress, we need to understand and build on insights and lessons developed by major thinkers and thought leaders. Now and in the past. There has always been, and still is, a gap between the academic world and the world of practice. This is such a shame and a loss for progress. Although there is a sense of heightened awareness, diversity and inclusion, sex and gender, and intersectionality, have been extensively discussed and researched for over 40 years. The same is true for the training system, training transfer and training processes. During the pilot we started to bridge this gap by reviewing the lessons of major gender scholars and seminal academic training research and authors. Standing on the shoulders of these giants made us taller and more confident and provided us with new ideas for training that is sex/gender equitable.


Lesson 3: Learning in a community of practice is invaluable

There was tremendous value in learning together as practitioners. The DE&I Discussion Series organized by the ATD are a great example of learning in a community of practice. In the case of the pilot, we were a much smaller group, and it was an incredibly powerful experience to be able to:

  • Share our own gendered histories and experiences;
  • Raise doubts and concerns;
  • Tell stories about real life situations;
  • Discuss the practical barriers;
  • Reflect on how to ensure our training is gender equitable.

The action plans that the trainers developed at the end of the pilot were testimony of the emancipating power of shared knowledge production, and how new insights can empower us to be and do better. Together.
In summary, this was a tremendously positive learning experience for all, and I strongly feel this is just the beginning as there is so much more to share and learn. In my next blog I will share implications for employee training and give an example to bring this to life.

If you have any questions about my research or this pilot, do not hesitate to contact me.

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