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Challenging gender stereotypes at an early age

Category: Blogger's Corner, WORKPLACE, work, skills, activity, carer for children

Challenging gender stereotypes at an early age

Blog by Victoria Dale.

Having taken the brave step to go into self employment last year to achieve more of a balance between family and work, I'm lucky to be able to work from home, have flexibility around school hours and fit in when I can my running during the day so that I can pick my son up from school at the gate and get to spend more time with him before bedtime. He just started school last September so I want to try and be there for him and watch him take part in curricular and extra curricular activities when I am able to. I had the privilege of sitting in and observing one of his maths lessons with some of the other parents. He is in a small class most of which are boys. It was interesting to observe how much better the girls in the class did at adding and subtracting than the boys.

It is well known that girls perform better than boys at school but sadly this is not translated into the workplace despite significant strides being made in narrowing the employment gap. Gender pay gap still remains wide at around 19% and whilst some progress has been made to ensure more women at board level, we still have a long way to go:

- Women continue to be the primary carer of children and therefore are more likely to work part-time in lower paid and lower skilled.

- Around 54,000 women are forced to quit their job early each year as a result of poor treatment after having a baby.

- The number of women in leadership roles in the UK lags behind other countries with around a fifth of leadership roles occupied by women compared to around a quarter globally.

But can gender stereotypes from a young age lead to gender inequality in the workplace?

I think so. Being a parent and having worked in Diversity and Inclusion for over 10 years I've noticed how gender stereotypes can manifest themselves at an early age from some of things I hear in the playground, reading childrens' books and on television. When his school have a fundraising event, a letter will go out to parents encouraging them to dress up, boys as superheroes and girls as super princesses. Why not let the children decide for themselves? Sometimes I hear from my son and his peers 'Girls don't play football' or 'Girls don't drive trains or build things'! My son is learning all about space at the moment and his class are busy rehearsing a show for the parents. I asked what role each child was playing and he said that girls don’t play the astronaut because that is what boys do as it's messy! I try where I can to teach my son that girls can do everything boys can like play football, drive a train and become an astronaut.

But sadly gender stereotypes are still reinforced in schools and at home that can influence what children think and how they view and interact with each other. However there is a movement towards challenging gender stereotypes in social media by parents and some retailers. Indeed some retailers have abandoned gender segregation of toys to give children the choice to pick whatever toy they like rather than assume the girls will go straight for the dolls and the boys will go for the cars/trains. I’ve also seen a well known department store stock clothes that are not segregated by gender.

So what are schools doing to address assumptions about gender?

Following a report by the Institute of Physics in 2014 highlighting the challenges of gender stereotyping in schools, guidelines were sent out to all schools in the UK with practical tips on how they can address gender equality in the class through use of language, training on gender equality and unconscious bias, appointing gender champions and interaction. What effect it has had is too early to capture but at least it is recognising there is an issue and hopefully it will gradually change perceptions over time in the classroom and into the workplace.

VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please call 02037405973 or email info@vercida.com for more information.

We are also officially recommended by Disability Confident as a step on achieving Employer status, please click here for more information.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email info@vercida.com for more information.

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