• Gender stereotypes are alive and well (YouTube)Source: YouTube
Children start making assumptions about gender stereotypes at a young age and harmful ones can negatively influence their future career path.
Bianca Soldani

5 Sep 2016 - 4:56 PM  UPDATED 5 Sep 2016 - 4:56 PM

You may think we've come a long way from the days when a nurse was assumed to be female and a doctor male, but a recent experiment involving young primary school students suggests otherwise.

When asked to draw images of a fire fighter, jet pilot and surgeon, over 90 per cent of students in a British classroom identified their drawings as male.

Their surprise when they were confronted with women in those uniforms goes to show just how deeply rooted their assumptions were.

A video produced by Inspiring the Future shows the children's surprise as the three professionals that have come to meet them are revealed to be women. One student yells, “fake” while another insists “they’re dressed up”.

Children as young as pre-school start pondering what they want to be when they grow up, but behaviour around the home, toys, and images from the media, shape children's perception of what certain professions look like.

If what young girls and boys imagine is heavily influenced by gender roles, a host of career options can effectively become closed to them - something which they may carry with them as they grow.

As the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner explains, “a gender stereotype is harmful when it limits women’s and men’s capacity to develop their personal abilities, pursue their professional careers and make choices about their lives and life plans.”

In this way stereotypes can further inequality as evidenced both in the types of professions young women and men gravitate towards, and the gender pay gap, which currently sees Australian women earn 83 cents for every dollar a man earns (or $261 less a week). 

The World Economic Forum’s 2015 Global Gender Gap ranked Australia at number 36 for gender equality out of a total 145 countries. This is down from 24th place the year before, and 15th in 2006. Comparatively, the United Kingdom came in at 18th place and the United States at 28th under first place Iceland.

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