As discussions of the pervasiveness of the gender pay gap in businesses remain rife and the recent centenary of the women’s vote as part of the, ‘Representation of the People Act 1918’, it’s important to examine the effect of gender in education.
Over recent years the teaching profession has become increasingly dominated by women, in fact the Department of Education’s latest report, 'School Workforce in England' states that 80.2% of overall school staff are female; in nurseries and primary schools, over three quarters of teachers (84.6%) are female.
‘Hays’ Diversity Report found that 84% of women and 64% of men believe that gender barriers still persist in the modern workplace’
Meanwhile the same report showed how year on year the number of male teachers is falling and there aren’t enough male teachers completing their training to compensate for this.
Image: School Workforce in England, page 7
Therefore with the balance of male and female teachers severely skewed it should prove no surprise that gender stereotypes are still resonant with so little exposure in classrooms across England. Why should it not be expected that the number one career ambition for girls is to be a teacher? In fact Hays’ Diversity Report found that 84% of women and 64% of men believe that gender barriers still persist in the modern workplace. So we have to question whether schools should be taking on the responsibility of showcasing the wide variety of careers out there and the possibilities for all genders.
‘…four times as many boys wanted to become engineers as did girls’
Quote: Findings from Drawing the Future report
The importance of this being initiated can’t be ignored. A new survey, ‘Drawing the Future’, carried out by education charity Education and Employers underlined the disparity of career ambitions between the genders. Whilst seven to eleven year old girls wanted jobs such as nurses, hairdressers and teachers, their boy counterparts were more likely to want STEM style jobs like airline pilots and mechanics – in fact four times as many boys wanted to become engineers as did girls.
Although it appears as though gender stereotypes flourish in the school system, schools are doing better at discussing gender with pupils in order to tackle this gender imbalance and naturalise gender fluidity. In Cardiff gender-neutral toilets were announced and a headteacher in a Bristol primary school introduced a gender-neutral uniform policy in an effort to not define children and remove themselves from gender stereotyping. Even businesses are recognising the importance addressing gender in our youngest societal members. John Lewis took the step to remove girls’ and boys’ labels from its clothing and at Hays, the serious stance towards equality, diversity and inclusion was recognised as we were recently accredited with the prestigious National Equality Standard (NES).
But our future generations can’t be expected to divert from the proverbial gender stereotypes unless they know of the opportunities that exist and could be of interest. Small steps taken by all can help to break down the gender stereotyping that seems to start from early onset childhood; by exposing pupils to more experiences in the world of work a more diverse career path can and should be encouraged. It just seems that the most apt place for this to begin is in the classroom.
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