Challenging gender stereotypes

9th May 2003 at 01:00
I noted with interest the articles "When girls were delicate things" and "Assistants need to take second job to survive" in your April 25 edition.

I was not surprised to read that the 1868 Schools Inquiry Commission "wrestled with gender stereotypes", as we at the Equal Opportunities Commission Scotland are acutely aware that, 135 years later, these stereotypes persist. School pupils' choices, both in terms of subjects and work experience placements, are still influenced by gender to a very significant degree. There is a clear link between these stereotypes and the existence of women's work ghettos - where women are concentrated in low paid, undervalued jobs, such as the ancillary jobs which support the education system.

That gender stereotypes persist is clear. We recently commissioned research into pupils' choice of work experience placement which confirmed that boys and girls still believe they should work in different fields. Boys mostly opted to work in the motor industry and manual trades whereas more than one in three girls surveyed chose placements in nurseries, playgroups or primary schools.

It seems that unless schools rise to the challenge of tackling the gender stereotypes which have been around for hundreds of years, another generation of women will be trapped in the low-pay, low-status ancillary jobs in education that were highlighted by the Unison research.

EOC Scotland recently produced and distributed a classroom resource pack for Scottish secondary schools entitled Educating for sex equality: tackling gaps, traps and stereotypes, designed to encourage schools to broaden their pupils' horizons and teach them about gender stereotypes and the costs of adhering to them. We hope that schools will find the time to use the materials contained in the pack.

Jenny Kemp

Education Development Officer Equal Opportunities Commission

Bath Street, Glasgow

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today