Jobs for boys must be for girls as well
“We need to work together to do what we can to tackle gender inequality but we also need to accept that there’s one major factor that we can’t influence and that’s personal choice.”
On an October afternoon in 2012, Malala Yousafzai – who had been sharing her views on promoting education for girls in the Swat Valley – was shot three times.
Her actions brought equality in education to the forefront of people’s minds; it generated debate and brought about positive action. We were united in agreement that men and women should have equal access to education, no question.
But when we shift our focus from the classroom to the workplace, gender inequality seems to be accepted.
While we’ve moved forward with greater emphasis on gender equality in legislation, the issue is a tough one to crack as it goes deeper than policy.
There are structural barriers in place preventing both men and women from pursuing jobs in certain industries. It could be something as simple as the way the role is marketed or it could be as challenging as the employer’s perception of who is suitable to fill the post.
Social and cultural norms also dictate the roles men and women should fill and we seem to be reluctant to challenge those norms. For example, for girls leaving school and going on to employment, the most popular career choices are hospitality, travel and tourism, and retail, sales and marketing.
While many women opt for careers in science, they tend to follow specific roles such as veterinary medicine, midwifery or general medicine. Very few pursue careers allied to other sciences such as physics.
For boys leaving school, the most popular jobs are, unsurprisingly, construction and engineering. While the numbers of boys pursuing a career in veterinary medicine is drastically lower than girls.
This unconscious gender bias is deeply rooted long before subject choices are made at school or university applications are submitted. We, therefore, need to educate them at an early age in order to open up their minds to the possibilities available to them regardless of gender.
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