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Gender neutrality

The absence of a positive or negative impact on one or another gender group. The term ‘gender neutral’ is used to describe a situation, policy, programme, activity, etc. that has no connection with gender equality issues or any impact on gender equality.  In this case, it would be advisable to use ‘neutral from the viewpoint of gender equality’ instead of ‘gender neutral’.

Practices or methods (e.g. gender-neutral job evaluation, gender-neutral language) that deliberately avoid associating different roles with a person’s gender are also called gender neutral. This means that these activities take into account the unequal situation, needs and opportunities of women and men, and seek to eliminate the impact of outdated gender roles and stereotypes. In policy-making, language, etc., attempts are made to avoid the regeneration of outdated gender stereotypes and creating the impression that there are social roles for the performance of which people of one gender are more suitable than people of the other gender.  For example, not using a job title that specifically refers to one gender or developing a performance assessment methodology on the basis of the principle that a person’s gender has no impact on how good or bad a person is at a job.

It’s also a misunderstanding when policies, activities, etc. where the different situations, needs and opportunities of women and men have not been taken into account are often called ‘gender neutral’, i.e. people of different genders are treated the same irrespective of their situation, opportunities and needs not being the same. Such policies, actions, etc. are not in fact ‘gender neutral’ but ‘gender blind’, i.e. they have an impact on the situation of gender equality, but this impact is rather negative (it can result in the regeneration of inequality or an increase in inequality).

If you feel that you’ve been treated unequally, please contact the Equality Commissioner by e-mail at avaldus@volinik.ee or telephone +372 626 9059. The anonymity of the person is guaranteed when contacting the Commissioner.