Universities are increasingly interested in addressing gender issues strategically. Introducing perspectives like the ethics of care turns attention to specific contexts and interdependent relationships

Alessandra Gerson

Recently, a group of eight PhD students participated in the first edition of the Esade’s seminar Gender in Research. The tailor-made course led by Professor Laura Guillén raises awareness not only about the gender issue in research, but also about the role of universities to understand and act upon diversity and inclusivity overall

We also got to know Esade coordinates the EU-funded EQUAL4EUROPE project, which aims to put forward the work of six universities to assess the gender situation and create a network of gender equality officers from the social science fields. 

All the above mentioned are a sign of increasing care about diversity and inclusivity impact and, moreover, that some universities are starting to address gender issues strategically. The ethics of care perspective — firmly rooted in contemporary feminist writing — moves away from the application of abstract and universal moral rules, turning attention to contexts and relationships instead

The ethics of care moves away from universal moral rules turning attention to contexts and relationships

Gender scholars like Caroline Moser and gender expert practitioners like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie have been trying to explain the reasons behind gender inequalities for decades, developing dense discussions about what gender is and what it does. There are transformation challenges for connecting structural social change expertise and intelligence up and down the entire ecosystem. 

For instance, Caroline Moser calls for a shift from gender planning to gender transformation. She explains, in gender studies, the “structural change in power relations'' is not only about empowering women individually. She claims: “you may educate individual women but unless you change the curricula, unless you change the way costumes work, unless you change all sorts of things that are going on, women’s agency is limited”. 

As Anne Phillips says, these articulated transformative efforts are "about transformation, about articulating previously unheard voices, exposing previously unchallenged bias, and rewriting political agendas''. Unfolding this transformational idea with gender theories, Carol Gilligan’s value gender difference in the use of situated reasoning and “contextual mode of judgement”.

Transformative efforts depend on ongoing practices and the social and political institutions in our societies

In the same line, Donna Haraway criticizes established understanding of “objectivity” and calls instead for “situated knowledge” grounded in particularities of partial “limited locations”, in the sense of grounding knowledge in its subjective context.  

Overall, gender thinkers are increasingly interested in finding solutions to project positive impact to tackle these gender inequality challenges. Furthermore, it forces us to see how the appropriate interventions and transformative efforts in specific and situated contexts depend on the ongoing practices of a group of people and the types of social and political institutions in our societies

Applying a context-sensitive perspective — such as, for instance, the ethics of care — for social innovation work needs sophisticated critical thinking, considering the substantial interdependencies among multiple systems and actors. However, it is not an uncomplicated effort. 

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