Gender Stereotyping Starts at a Young Age. What is it and Why Should We Care?

What is Gender Stereotyping?

By the age of six children have decided what jobs they can and can’t do in the future and this is based on gender and social stereotyping. When we talk about gender and social stereotyping, we are referring to the preconceived ideas that men and women are assigned characteristics and roles simply based on their gender and social background.

Below are some of the revealing, if slightly depressing results, from a report conducted last year by the charity, Education and Employers. ‘Drawing the Future’ asked more than 20,000 primary school children globally to draw the job they wanted to do when they grow up.  

20 times the number of boys have aspirations to be involved in manufacturing and construction, with over 20 times the number of girls desiring to be involved in the fashion industry compared to boys.

But it’s not all bad news.

The report also showed the very positive impact that visitors to school can be in challenging those preconceptions.  A chance to meet professionals in a variety of fields is the key to widening their view of the world of work. It provides them with a clearer picture of what can be achieved, as meeting with someone they haven’t met before who isn’t a family member or a teacher, is seen to be a more authentic experience. Therefore, more believable.  


The fast-moving employment landscape is difficult for students and teachers to navigate but it is often even more challenging for parents.


The charity’s online matching programme connects volunteers with schools across the UK.  Currently it has nearly 50,000 registered volunteers keen to go into schools and talk with school children from primary through to sixth form about their career journeys.  And it works. So if your school isn’t registered to be part of its Inspiring the Future campaign – get them to sign up.

The fast-moving employment landscape is difficult for students and teachers to navigate but it is often even more challenging for parents.  So much has changed and continues to change very rapidly.

The charity also has a fantastic free resource that has over 1000 videos with personal stories from people sharing their career route.  It is a handy way to counter stereotypes and open the eyes of both children and their families.   Other information on the site highlights what careers can be aspired to by studying specific subjects as well has helping to unravel information on apprenticeships, which are a fantastic route for young people to gain qualifications and a career  whilst being paid.

Marian Wright Edelman, a renowned American activist for children’s rights put it so succinctly ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’  


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