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Gender stereotyping still exist in the very young

Children’s drawings of the working world reveal significant gender stereotyping, according to study from recruitment company PageGroup.

A study, conducted by specialist global recruitment company PageGroup, has revealed that young children in the UK hold gender-stereotyped views when it comes to specific job roles. The PageGroup study, which asked for drawings from over one hundred children aged 7-11, reinforced the reality of gender stereotyping when it comes to professions. The children were asked to draw a nurse, a builder, a lawyer and a banker, and also the job they aspire to when they grow up. Where gender was identifiable, the drawings showed a clear gender skew for specific roles: 81% of children drew nurses as female; 88% of children drew builders as male; 80% of children drew bankers as male; the most gender balanced of the professions, 65% of children drew lawyers as male. These findings come despite the ongoing efforts of the professional world to address the lack of diversity in historically male-or-female-dominated roles and create a more balanced workforce. The findings show a generation that is growing-up in a forward-thinking world, but is clearly inheriting outdated gender stereotypes.

Dr. Richard Woolfson, child psychologist and author on child development, said: “The psychological danger of stereotypes like this during childhood is that children’s future career ambitions and employment aspirations can be unnecessarily limited by their own rigid job-gender perceptions and expectations, irrespective of their actual ability, and that children might fail to even consider job possibilities associated with the opposite gender.

“To avoid this pitfall, parents should get to know their children’s views about job-gender and then try to broaden their perspective so that they avoid setting artificial employment boundaries for themselves. Children will only fulfil their maximum employment potential in post-school life if they make a career choice that is suited to their talents, interests and abilities, not one that is needlessly restricted by job-gender stereotypes.” Oliver Watson, Executive Board Director for UK & North America, PageGroup, commented: “While these drawings might seem like a fairly light-hearted way to examine the topic of gender diversity, they are a worrying indication that children are still associating certain job roles with specific genders. This early-age stereotyping will likely impact the roles, industries and positions they look at as adults. More needs to be done to encourage diversity and inclusion in schools and in the adult working world, but it is certainly our responsibility to lead by example.”

The findings are supported by the recent ‘#RedrawTheBalance’ advert launched by charity Education and Employers, which raises awareness of the work that needs to be done to tackle gender stereotyping at a young age. Carol Glover, Campaigns & Communication Manager, Education and Employers said: “The children in our advert demonstrate why our Inspiring the Future’s primary programme, which gets volunteer local businesspeople – from apprentices and CEOs to archeologists and zoologists – into state schools for free, is so important. We’re pleased to see PageGroup’s study is bringing these issues to the forefront in industries that traditionally lack gender diversity too. There is a clear call-to-action for schools and businesses alike to help to break down gender stereotypes and preconceptions, and ensure our future workforce is not only diverse but empowered to be whatever they want to be.”

When I grow up: children’s aspirations defined by gender
The study also illustrated some interesting gender trends in children’s job aspirations. Girls’ drawings generally showed a focus on helping others (teachers, nurses, and vets) and entertainment (musicians, artists, and pop stars). Comparably, boys’ drawings frequently depicted aspirations of sports-dominated roles (footballers, rally drivers, and rugby players) and careers where they could exercise authority in society (such as firemen and head teachers).

Amongst the more unusual job choices for the girls were Oscar-winning actress, astronaut, game designer and singer (on YouTube). Meanwhile the boys picked parkourist, taxi driver, YouTuber and zoo keeper. 

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