If this, then that: how to respond in challenging situations about gender equity

Ever found yourself in a conversation with someone who was unsure about, or disagrees with, a gender equity initiative? Or perhaps overheard someone making an inappropriate joke?

If you weren’t sure how to respond appropriately, you’re not alone. If This, Then That can help.

In this Guide, you’ll find common scenarios where people are being resistant to gender equity, diversity and inclusion. Each scenario is accompanied by responses that you can use to defuse potentially tense situations, correct misinformation and raise awareness of the importance of gender equity and diversity.

The Guide uses an “If this, then that” model that is borrowed from the “rehearsing narratives” (If–then) approach in social psychology. If–then scripts link situational cues (i.e. good opportunities to act, critical moments) with potential responses to achieve a desired outcome. For example, if you encounter situation X, then initiate behaviour Y to reach goal Z.

Two panel comic featuring a conversation between two men.

First panel "If this...": Man 1 says "Affirmative action isn't fair to today's men. I mean, what happened in the past wasn't fair either, but why should we be punished for something that wasn't our fault?" Man 2 thinks "I don't really agree... what should I say?"

Second panel "Then that...": Man 2 says "Today's men might not discriminate or be directly responsible for the structural barriers that women face, but we continue to benefit from its effects. Without affirmative action, it could take many, many years to achieve gender equity - if we get there at all."

This resource was developed by the SAGE Western Australian Regional Network (WARN), following a workshop it led at the Catalysing Gender Equity 2020 conference.

The scenarios and suggested responses were compiled from WARN members and conference workshop attendees. Responses are also informed by relevant research.

Want to back up your responses with solid data? Use the list of gender equity data sources in the appendix.