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Gender stereotyping is alive and kicking, and it starts in children as young as seven years old – Oliver Watson, Executive Board Director for UK & North America, PageGroup


Oliver Watson is Executive Board Director for UK & North America at PageGroup. He is responsible for PageGroup operations in the UK, USA and Canada.

Oliver-Watson - PageGroup
Oliver Watson

A study, conducted by specialist global recruitment company PageGroup, has revealed that young children in the UK hold gender-stereotyped views when it comes to specific job roles. The study, which asked for drawings from over one hundred children aged 7-11, challenges the myth that gender stereotyping develops in later life. 

Gender stereotyping begins earlier than you might think

Interested in the impact of gender stereotypes on children and what it means for their future job aspirations, PageGroup recently asked 7-11 year olds to illustrate specific professions – a nurse, a builder, a lawyer, a banker – and assign a gender to each role.  Girls-drawingWhile this might seem a light-hearted way to examine the very serious subject of workplace diversity, the results, which clearly indicated that children associate certain job roles with specific genders, should give us all pause for thought. Particularly those who work in industries that are putting a lot of effort into attracting a broader range of employees.

Whether formed as a consequence of what children are watching on TV, early exposure to the Internet and social media, or just the views or jobs of their parents, the results certainly dispel any held myths that gender stereotypes only kick in as we get older. Accurate or not, having such views that early in life may well impact which roles and industries these children look to work in as adults, and result in them limiting their ambitions.

Call-to-action for schools, parents and businesses to break down preconceptions

The findings of the research present a clear call-to-action for schools, parents and businesses to work together to help break down gender stereotypes and preconceptions. It’s the responsibility of family, educators, employers and recruiters to lead by example and ensure the future workforce in the UK is diverse and feels empowered. As a leading global recruitment agency, PageGroup is dedicated to workforce diversity and recently created a Diversity and Inclusion checklist tool for businesses to self-assess their D&I efforts and receive suggestions for improvement.

Study methodology

The children were asked to draw a nurse, a builder, a lawyer and a banker, and also the job they aspire to when they grow up. Where gender was identifiable, the drawings showed a clear gender skew for specific roles: 

  • 81% of children drew nurses as female;
  • 88% of children drew builders as male;
  • 80% of children drew bankers as male;
  • The most gender balanced of the professions, 65% of children drew lawyers as male. 

Boy-drawingThese findings come despite the ongoing efforts of the professional world to address the lack of diversity in historically male or female-dominated roles and create a more balanced workforce – showing a generation that is growing-up in a forward-thinking world, but is clearly inheriting outdated gender stereotypes.

When I grow up: children’s aspirations defined by gender

The study also illustrated some interesting gender trends in children’s job aspirations. Girls’ drawings generally showed a focus on helping others (teachers, nurses and vets) and entertainment (musicians, artists and pop stars). Comparably, boys’ drawings frequently depicted aspirations of sports-dominated roles (footballers, rally drivers and rugby players) and careers where they could exercise authority in society (such as firemen and head teachers).

Girls Boys
Teacher Footballer
Vet Policeman
Scientist Scientist
Designer Computer designer
Dancer Explorer
Nurse Fireman
Hairdresser Paleontologist
Gymnast Pilot
Baker Race car driver / rally car driver
Beautician / make-up artist Rugby player

The findings are supported by the recent ‘#RedrawTheBalance’ advert launched by charity Education and Employers, which raises awareness of the work that needs to be done to tackle gender stereotyping at a young age.

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