International Women’s Day is an opportunity to reflect about gender equality and equity in education, to discuss gender roles and stereotypes in our society and how we can actively work to avoid reproducing them in our classrooms. This entry is an invitation to revise our views on the subject and implement some actions to reduce them in our daily remote teaching practice. 

Worldwide inequity and inequality

While in many parts of the world, after years of sustained effort, gaps on access to education for girls and boys have largely been bridged, inequalities still exist. According to UNICEF, ‘129 million girls are out of school, including 32 million of primary school age, 30 million of lower-secondary school age, and 67 million of upper-secondary school age’ (UNICEF, 2022a). This is also reflected in the digital world: ‘globally, women are 7 per cent less likely than men to own a mobile phone and 15 per cent less likely to use mobile internet in low- and middle-income countries’ (UNICEF, 2021a: 2). The broadest gaps concentrate in the Global South. This has a great impact in the lives of women, girls, and the community at large, as those who have the opportunity to access education are less likely to marry young and more likely to earn better salaries, take part in decisions that affect them and have better perspectives for their future in general (UNICEF, 2022a).  

Furthermore, when girls and women do access education and digital technologies, the gaps in digital literacies and skills that could enable them to harness the opportunities digital technologies offer, still prevail. A critical example of this is their reduced online safety abilities, which can place them at risk. Similarly, they are less likely to use technology for education or to access public services such as booking health appointments, among other limitations (UNICEF, 2021a; UNICEF, 2022a; King, 2021). As the 2020 UN Women discussion paper on the implications of the digital revolution for gender equality and women’s rights states, digital technologies need to be understood as part of a wider context that socially shapes their design, as well as how they are used. They are not neutral, not regarding gender nor in other socio-political areas. This is why it is important to promote gender-responsive remote teaching pedagogies that will level the ground for all students to thrive.

Working towards equity and equality in all areas of the education field with efforts made by all actors in the community will help pursue the UN Sustainable Development Goal 5, ‘achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’. Remote teaching practices are especially equipped to deal with target 5b: ‘enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women’ ( Additionally, they are steps towards complying with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) adopted by the UN in 1979, which requires countries to put an end to discrimination against girls and women in all areas and fosters equal rights. 

Another relevant concept to consider is  intersectionality: every person’s identity is formed by a combination of multiple factors that intersect and can benefit or disadvantage them and that we cannot separate. Examples of these are age, class, nationality, race, gender identity, sexual orientation. This means that women may be negatively affected by overlapping conditions: e.g. poor, migrant, racialised, LGBT+, rural women face greater access barriers. This results in great heterogeneity within women’s ability to take advantage of opportunities the digital world offers (UNICEF, 2021b, UN Women, 2022).

A research endeavour currently being undertaken for which the British Council is a partner is the THEMIS project, which aims at evaluating equality and equity in ELT curriculum, material and ICT policies in Botswana, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa, a region where great gaps are persistent and intersectionality will play a great role in the analysis and findings, which will undoubtedly result in valuable insights for policymakers and teachers alike.

Gender-responsive digital pedagogies

Remote teaching creates opportunities for girls and women who cannot access face-to-face classrooms for various reasons such as living in rural areas, having to travel through unsafe roads to attend lessons or other limitations. They are also privileged contexts for digital literacy development. However, barriers can limit their ability to take advantage of this: gaps in their skills to use digital technologies combined with traditional gender roles still prevailing in many regions, which mean that many girls, especially teenagers, have less time to devote to education as they need to look after household responsibilities and care tasks (UNICEF, 2022b). We need to bear this in mind in our lessons to avoid them becoming another space where inequities are reproduced.

One way to approach the subject is to use gender-responsive digital pedagogies, which are practices that purposefully respond to the challenges learners face in remote learning environments, taking intersectionality into consideration to help them engage with the content while expressing their identities and building on their strengths (UNICEF, 2022b). Some examples of actions we can take in our remote classrooms within this approach include:

  1. Use gender inclusive language
    Build a learning environment in which all our learners feel seen and welcome. Find out about students’ preferred pronouns and names and use those to refer to them. Use gender neutral language i.e. avoid using gendered language like congressman or mankind, referring to a group using the male generic or using gendered pronouns when the gender of the person you are referring to is unknown to you or unclear. You can use plurals or they as the singular pronoun in those situations. Use language that does not perpetuate discrimination against minorities or certain groups of people. This handout has more detailed advice on this. Equally relevant is to teach learners to understand and use inclusive language.
  2. Avoid reproducing gender stereotypes in classroom interactions
    As Coimbra and Taylor (2020) have stated, ‘we need to ensure we have the same high expectations of all our learners. We have to acknowledge and fight our own biases, bearing in mind that we are part of society with stereotypes, and are not free from making assumptions unconsciously about minority groups’. Our unconscious bias might make us reinforce our own internalised stereotypes through non-verbal clues, so we need to be aware of these. Also, we should pay attention to management of equal participation of students of different genders, promote respectful relationships between them and challenge discriminatory practices. Ask yourself questions such as: are boys dominating the interactions? Are they discouraged from expressing emotions? Do girls always take the role of note-taking in group activities? Is disruptive behaviour differently treated?
  3. Analyse material with a gender equality perspective
    In connection with the previous point, analyse chosen material to make sure it does not reproduce gender stereotypes and it represents the diversity in our societies. Some examples of critical questions to evaluate the material: are minorities represented? How are women portrayed? Are, for example, scientists and engineers male and nurses and teachers female? Are women in the material emotional and boys good at sports? If you’re on the subject of family, how is the family being represented? Are there single mothers, LBGT+ parents, adopted children? If the material is indeed sexist, you can do away with it if possible, or you can bring students attention to the problem and encourage critical discussion of it.
  4. Promote women in STEM
    Women are underrepresented in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Related to the previous points, using material that portrays women who are successful in STEM disciplines such as scientists, engineers, doctors, is a way to challenge stereotypes and encourage girls to pursue those careers. This technology-enriched setting is a unique opportunity to motivate them to explore their tech interests and help them become tech-savvy.
    To address this underrepresentation, the British Council is providing scholarships for women to undertake postgraduate courses in STEM areas in the UK. Find out about these scholarships here.
  5. Develop learners’ digital literacy with an emphasis on online safety
    Consider digital safety precautions, as the internet is yet another space in which violence against women can happen. Teach all students how to stay safe online, which will benefit all learners, but girls in particular. As seen above, there are gender gaps in digital literacy skills. Remote teaching is a favoured scenario to develop them. Read our article about developing digital literacy in remote teaching for further discussion of this point.
  6. Discuss gender equality explicitly
    Considering students' age group and characteristics of their life stage, the topic can be dealt with explicitly to raise their awareness and empower them to take action. This way, for example, young children can understand toys are not gender-related while upper secondary students can reflect about power structures that benefit from inequities and how to resist them. You may need to check your school’s institutional policies on this subject to make sure you are adhering to it before taking this step.

The ideas previously discussed are dealt with in more depth in this UNICEF guide for educators on Gender-Responsive Digital Pedagogies. We strongly recommend exploring this comprehensive resource. 

Relatedly, all the Special Educational Needs good practices are also important to achieve gender equality, Universal Design for Learning principles in particular. We have written about this subject and LearnJam has developed a toolkit to apply in remote English teaching lessons, both of which you can access following this link.

Gender balance in ELT events and management

The following figure taken from the 2020 UN Women discussion paper on the implications of the digital revolution for gender equality and women’s rights clearly shows the gendered distribution of fields of study worldwide: 

Figure taken from page 7 of Wajcman, J., Young, E. and Fitzmaurice, A., 2022.  The digital revolution: Implications for gender equality and women’s rights 25 years after Beijing (Discussion Paper Number 36, August 2020).  UN Women. 


The sharp contrast between Education and ICT is an indicator of disparities. Not only that, but it also indicates that education is a largely female area. However, there is a tendency for managing and other higher ranking positions to be occupied by men, which is coherent with the findings of the 2020 British Council Gender Pay Gap report. Monitoring this and taking action to encourage greater balance in workplaces across all levels of organisations is one step forward.

One initiative that tackles this is The Fair List UK, which is an annual award for gender-balanced ELT events, which looks at parity of plenary speakers, presenters and panels.

British Council actions

The British Council works to ensure Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. Some of the initiatives to contribute to reducing gender inequity in ELT include:

Keep learning about the subject


British Council, 2020. British Council Gender Pay Gap report. Narrative report summary - reporting year 2019/2020. [Online] British Council. Available from [Accessed 6 March 2023]

Coimbra, I. and Taylor, J. 2020. Bringing diversity into the secondary English classroom. [Online] IATEFL YLT SIG. Available from  [Accessed 6 March 2023]

Commision on the Status of Women (CSW67), 2022. Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. Expert guidance and substantive inputs to preparations for the 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. [Online] UN Women. Available from: [Accessed 5 March 2023]

Gender-Responsive Digital Pedagogies: A Guide for Educators, 2022b. New York: UNICEF.

King, F., 2021. Collectively projecting an equitable, diverse, inclusive digital and innovation revolution. [Online] UNICEF. Available from [Accessed 6 March 2023]

UN General Assembly, 1979. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. A/RES/34/180, December 1979. Available from:  [accessed 7 March 2023]

UNICEF, 2021a. Advancing Girls' Education and Gender Equality through Digital Learning [Online] UNICEF. Available from [Accessed 5 March 2023]

UNICEF, 2021b. Gender Transformative Education.

UNICEF, 2022a. Girls' education. [Online] UNICEF. Available from UNICEF [Accessed 4 March 2023]

Wajcman, J., Young, E. and Fitzmaurice, A., 2022.  The digital revolution: Implications for gender equality and women’s rights 25 years after Beijing (Discussion Paper Number 36, August 2020).  UN Women. Available from