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Gender bias mars work experience

Work experience adds to the disadvantage suffered by boys and girls in deprived areas by confining them to stereotyped jobs.

A research project commissioned by Glasgow University and the former Strathclyde Region (Comment, page 23) shows that boys who went outside traditional male occupations risked rejection by their peers, and girls who rejected feminine roles found it hard to be taken seriously.

A study of 147 fourth-year pupils found that boys were allocated traditional masculine placements in construction, engineering and transport. Girls had even more limited outlets, often in the social services. Examination of 2,500 placements made over a six-week period confirmed the findings.

Jeannie Mackenzie, who undertook the study, says that schools tried to challenge stereotypical vocational roles. Teachers and employers agreed that there should be positive action to encourage pupils who were interested in "gender-contrary vocations".

Pupils understood gender stereotypes but were less sure about countering them.

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