The University of Canberra is revamping its toilets to accommodate transgender people. Whereas the traditional model is to have toilets for men and women there is now a third category it’s calling “gender inclusive bathrooms”. The university said, “The bathrooms can be used by anyone of any identity or gender.” “We are going round the university looking at where it’s possible to have three different types of bathrooms,” the university’s deputy vice-chancellor, professor Geoff Crisp, said. There were cost implications and new multi-gender bathrooms were more likely in new buildings, but it was “important to have bathrooms that will accommodate people’s differences of identity”.
The changes are part of a raft of measures the university has taken to reduce discrimination. Senior staff are also being trained to identify their own unconscious biases against women and other groups. One prejudice, for example, comes because some men assume that quiet women lack authority and that means they don’t get promoted. “There’s a lot of unconscious bias around behaviour,” Professor Crisp said. “Men are often more outspoken and aggressive in their body language,” he said. An assumption might be made that a lack of those qualities meant a lack of leadership ability. “Just because you don’t bang the table, doesn’t mean you can’t lead.”
The university has just been honoured in a project set up by the Australian Academy of Science and by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. The organisers say the aim of the project they’ve called the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) is to increase diversity in universities, particularly the number of women in senior positions in scientific departments. But it has rejected the idea of accepting “blind” applications where the name of the applicant is withheld so interviewers and the HR department can’t work out whether a man or woman is applying. Professor Crisp said it was usually possible to work out someone’s gender from other information in a resume.
Rather, the university was concentrating on raising awareness about discrimination and training staff to spot prejudice and counter it, including in themselves. The issue of toilets has been problematic elsewhere. It fires up intense emotion. In London, one theatre put in new “gender neutral” toilets and some women born as women objected. When Scott Morrison became prime minister, a sign on the toilet door said that the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet was “committed to staff inclusion and diversity” and invited staff and visitors to “please use the bathroom that best fits your gender identity”. Mr Morrison was quoted as calling it “political correctness over the top
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