4 in 5 children think banking is a man’s job and nursing is a woman’s

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Mr Banks - the real hero of Mary Poppins - was a banker in the City of London
Mr Banks – the real hero of Mary Poppins – was a banker in the City of London

A study, conducted by global recruitment company PageGroup, has revealed that young children in the UK hold gender-stereotyped views when it comes to specific job roles.

The 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 percent of children drew nurses as female
  • 88 percent of children drew builders as male
  • 80 percent of children drew bankers as male
  • the most gender balanced of the professions, 65 percent 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 The findings show a generation that is growing-up in a forward-thinking world, but is clearly inheriting outdated gender stereotypes.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.”

The findings are supported by the recent ‘#RedrawTheBalance’ advert launched by the charity Education and Employers, which raises awareness of the work that needs to be done to tackle gender stereotyping at a young age.

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, taxi driver, YouTuber and zoo keeper.

Girls Boys
Teacher Footballer
Vet Policeman
Scientist Scientist
Designer Computer designer
Dancer Explorer
Nurse Fireman
Hairdresser Paleontologist
Gymnast Pilot
Baker Race car driver/rally car driver
Beautician/make-up artist Rugby player

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4 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. Things don’t seem to change very quickly. I retired from the Police Service after 25 years and commenced work teaching in Primary schools. I was the only Male and worked with 9 Female Colleagues. I was regularly told that teaching primary school children was not a job for a “Real Man”, by two of my female colleagues !!

  2. I am interested to see that of the top 3 job choices by both genders “scientist” comes in at number 3 and that Vet (for which you need exceptional academic grades) comes second for girls. Progress is slow, but ….

    I once heard a female engineer tell the story of how her young son answered the question: “What do you want to be when you grow up.”

    “I want to do what Daddy does.” (A laboratory manager). “Oh,” says Mum “Not an engineer like me.” “Nah,” says the son “That’s a girl’s job.”

    Or the male Accountant with 3 sons who said “One wants to be a superhero, the other a pilot and the youngest simply wants to be a Mummy because mummies look after us all.”

  3. I agree with Gwen Rhys. I am pleased that sufficient progress has been made that “scientist” is number 3 for both genders. But that doesn’t make the headlines. I wonder why not?

  4. I retired from the Fire and Rescue Service after 30 years last year. Much progress has been made in terms of trying to recruit not only women but also those from ethnic and minority backgrounds into the Service. It is no easy task and there is a long way to go, but what is disappointing is that the terminology here still refers to Fireman – a term you will not hear in any Fire and Rescue Service in the UK but commonly still used in the media!!

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