As a child, what did you dream of being when you were older? A doctor? A teacher? An engineer?

In the next of our ‘On Our Radar’ articles, we look at how learning environments can influence our decisions for the future, and how the perception of gender can infiltrate these from an early age.

Research shows that children start developing an awareness of gender as early as the age of 3. By the age of 7, most have developed their own gender identity and will start acting and making choices in line with that.

But with a woman’s traditional role in society being that of a carer first and earner second, making decisions in line with gender, albeit unconsciously, can limit girls choices.

What’s more, traditionally women dominate low paid sectors such as the 5 Cs – caring, cashiering, cleaning, catering and clerical – which contributes to a persistent gender pay gap ( as illustrated in the Institute for Fiscal Studies report ).

You can’t be what you can’t see.

Having positive role models in non-traditional sectors is key to broadening girls’ aspirations and expectations for the future.

Women are still hugely underrepresented in industries such as science and construction, which have been identified as key for the future prosperity of the Welsh economy.

We need to encourage girls to study and develop careers in these areas so they can make the most of future opportunities.

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Challenging stereotypes.

It’s important therefore that stereotypes are challenged early on, by parents, teachers and all those involved in a child’s development. Educational institutions, particularly schools have a key role to play in this.

As the new Programme for Government is put together, the Welsh Government has the opportunity to prioritise the creation of gender inclusive learning environments in Wales.

Our schools can become world leading examples, ensuring that boys and girls grow up with true equality of opportunity.

Reviews of the national curriculum and teacher training in Wales having recently taken place, and plans are now being created and trialled.

This provides the timely platform from which to build these learning environments.

We’ve identified several key areas that could help achieve this:

  • Ensuring that the new curriculum plays a central role in challenging stereotypes.
  • Embedding gender awareness training into initial teacher training, CPD and training for careers professionals.
  • Cultivating stronger links between schools and local businesses, focusing on offering a broader range of options to girls through positive role models and meaningful work experience.
  • Using Estyn inspections to examine the extent to which gender stereotypes are being challenged in the classroom and in careers advice.

Related.

Policy Papers: Education and Skills.

On Our Radar: Women in Leadership.