When asking children what they want to be when they are older girls and boys always seem to come out with the same answers. Girls want to be hairdressers and dancers whereas boys want to be train drivers and builders. Where has this stereotype come from and how come it has been passed onto children so young.
First of all, as soon as a child is born the gifts they are immediately given are gender appropriate gifts of stereotypical colours automatically, we may not even think about it – girls are pink, boys are blue and if you don’t know yet stick with yellow. These stereotypes stick around much of childhood as at upcoming birthdays and Christmas young children are bought toys and dress up costumes that are gender specific. Girls are given tutus and kitchens and boys are given hammers and car sets. By enforcing these jobs upon children at such a young age they will begin to think this is the path that they should follow as it has become so familiar. This is termed the self-fulfilling prophecy – enforcing a stereotype upon a person until they begin to portray those stereotypical behaviours.
Breaking the mould of these stereotypical jobs is hard to do as many adults enforce these unknowingly through their reactions to children picking a toy that doesn’t fit the stereotype such as a boy playing with a Barbie or influence in a discussion about future jobs. It takes a strong personality to break this mould and these people will be very rare if these stereotypes are all that the children are subject to.
This stereotype does not just apply to toys it also applies in education. When choosing options in year 9 or A-level options and even a degree there is a pressure to conform to the stereotype. People are pushed to play to their strengths but the advice given may be from gender biased teachers and peers who assume girls or boys should stick to what is perceived as their strength.
A study recently conducted by woods and Hampson measured 587 children and their personality as a child and whether it correlated with their job choice. Teachers scored children on a personality test, as measured by the big 5, when they were 6-12 years old then later at 40-55 years old these pupils then declared what job they were in, jobs were categorised upon Holland’s RIASEC model – Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, Conventional. The personality test was measured by the Big 5 which states that personality is measured through scales on openness to experience, contentiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism which everyone measured differently on. It was found that those children with low openness to experience were more likely to be in a realistic job at 40-55 years old if they were male and conventional jobs if they were women. This shows that if you don’t break the mould and try something new then you are most likely to end up in a job that has been decided for you through gender stereotyping.
So if you ever find yourself or others conforming to gender stereotypical jobs because their mum told them too or they’re not sure what else to do – tell them BREAK THE MOULD and do what you really want to not what society suggests.