Pupils' work experience placements are heavily influenced by gender or class stereotypes, according to a new report.
The study found that boys and girls were being steered into traditional roles, even when they had expressed an interest in trying something different.
Researchers at London Metropolitan university, led by Becky Francis, said that out of more than 10,000 placements in engineering companies, only 520, or just 5 per cent, were undertaken by girls.
"Uptake of work experience placements reflects and potentially perpetuates gender stereotyping," said the study, carried out for the Equal Opportunities Commission.
Researchers looked at the experiences of 566 pupils in 20 schools and interviewed work experience co-ordinators. They also analysed data from the Learning and Skills Council on 90,000 placements.
The report found that no girls did work experience in the fields of engineering or plumbing, compared with 31 and six boys respectively.
Only one girl did an information technology placement, compared with 18 boys.
Just two boys took up placements relating to childcare, compared with 43 girls. Of those girls, only 29 had expressed a career interest in that field.
The study also found that some types of work experience were linked to socio-economic grouping and were avoided by pupils who were not planning to go to university. These included placements in the legal, media, science, and medical professions. These pupils were more likely than others to take placements in hairdressing and beauty salons or semiunskilled manual work.
Researchers recommended that pupils should do two types of placement, one of them in an occupation that would not be traditional for their gender or class.