Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

We Must Work to Stop This Gender Stereotyping

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

We Must Work to Stop This Gender Stereotyping

Article excerpt


ALTHOUGH girls are doing better at every stage of the education system than boys, there remains a 'gender gap' when it comes to choice of subjects and career at 16.

Young women are still more likely to take arts, humanities and social science subjects, like English, foreign languages and sociology, and young men are more likely to take scientific and technology-based subjects such as physics, engineering and IT, especially level 3 (A-level and Btec National) in our schools and colleges.

Even within the supposed 'gender neutral' national curriculum, there are marked gender differences. For instance, girls are more likely to take home economics and food technology (cookery), while boys are more likely to opt for woodwork and electronics.

Although young women account for over half of all apprenticeship starts, only 8% of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) apprenticeships were begun by women in 2017. A new report by the Careers and Enterprise Company, 'Closing the Gender Gap', has found that "gendered stereotypes'' still determine the occupational choices of young women. The study of 2,000 young people found that women are much more likely to go into carerelated jobs such as nursing or teaching, while men are more likely to opt for IT or engineering type jobs. Today there are few women bricklayers and even fewer male beauty therapists!

City MP Chi Onwurah, a former engineer, has called for an end to sex-specific toys, which she argues has contributed to the gender gap in education and vocational training, and deters young women from jobs in technology and science. There's some compelling evidence which supports Ms Onwurah's claim.

Through parental upbringing, what sociologists term "gender role socialisation" means that from an early age, boys and girls are encouraged to play with different toys and do different activities in the home. This process of socialisation through the family and early-years education may encourage young men to develop more interest in technical and scientific subjects and careers, and discourage young women from taking them. It's not simply about 'pink for girls' and 'blue for boys'.

The latest study by Becky Francis, 'Gender, Toys and Learning', found that while parental choices for boys were marked by toys that involved action, construction and machinery, there was a tendency to steer girls towards dolls and perceived 'feminine' interests such as hairdressing and beauty therapy. As Francis notes: "The clear message seems to be that boys should be making things, using their hands and solving problems, and girls should be caring and nurturing.'' Gender stereotypes, when it comes to play and toys, has a clear impact on youngsters' future subject choices and career prospects. It's true that girls are outperforming boys at GCSE and AS/A-level, but the problem remains with the curriculum which is 'highly gendered' as noted earlier. …

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