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Work aspirations influenced by stereotyping

Work aspirations influenced by stereotyping

A new report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission has found that careers advice, the choice of subjects to study at school and for an apprenticeship, and work experience placements are all subject to stereotyping that tend to impact more significantly on distinct groups, including girls, the disabled, the working class and some ethnic minorities.

The report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Staying on, reveals the findings of a survey of more than 1,000 young people, which the Commission believes is the most comprehensive and up-to-date picture of the education and career aspirations of today’s14 to 18 year olds.

One of the most worrying results for careers advisers and employers alike is the finding that careers advice, the choice of subjects to study at school and for an apprenticeship, and work experience placements are all subject to stereotyping that tend to have an impact more significantly on distinct groups, including girls, the disabled, the working class and some ethnic minorities. The outcome is that young people’s options and aspirations are limited at an early age.

Research on gender in work experience placements found startling connections between stereotyped work placements and job choice – and that those from lower socio-economic groups, girls and ethnic minority students, were most disadvantaged by the current system.

The gender gap in wages is partly explained by the fact that women tend to work predominantly in stereotypical ‘female’ occupations. These occupational choices are, in turn, linked to the choice of subjects studied at school, that is, boys tend to pursue technical and science-oriented subjects, while girls choose arts, humanities and social sciences.

Despite girls’ success at GCSE, three-quarters of women still end up in the five Cs of employment – cleaning, catering, caring, cashiering and clerical. Explanations for this trend include the stereotyping of subject choices at school. Inflexibility in work means that once students have gone along a career path, they find it difficult to change. There is some evidence that teachers and others in education may also contribute towards these trends, consciously or unconsciously encouraging boys and girls to pursue ‘gender-appropriate’ subjects.

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