This Is How Gender Stereotypes Are Limiting Children’s Potential

Photographed by Eylül Aslan
Harmful gender stereotypes are "significantly limiting" the potential of British children, a new report has found.
The report by the Commission on Gender Stereotypes in Early Childhood found that these stereotypes can lead to problems such as lower self-esteem and poor body-image issues in girls, violence against girls and women, and higher male suicide rates.
The report also found that these stereotypes can narrow career choices for girls, which in turn exacerbates the gender pay gap.
Three-quarters of parents who participated in the report said boys and girls are treated differently, and 60% said they believe this has negative effects.
Meanwhile, 80% of parents said they would like to see their child's school or nursery treat all children the same regardless of gender.
More than half of educators working with under-sevens said they had heard a co-worker say "boys will be boys" in response to a male pupil's misbehaviour.
"From 'boys will be boys' attitudes in nursery or school, to 'jobs for boys' and 'jobs for girls' views among some parents, these stereotypes are deeply embedded and they last a lifetime," Sam Smethers of the Fawcett Society said.
Smethers also called for an end to the "princessification" of girls and the "toxification" of boys, especially by commercial brands.
"The commercial sector too often uses gender stereotypes and segregates boys and girls simply to sell more products," she said. "But this is not about making everything gender neutral. We also have to make women and girls visible when, because of pre-existing bias, the default male will still be the prevailing assumption. So for example, routinely showing children women leaders or scientists is important."
Professor Becky Harris, co-chair of the Commission, said the report's evidence is "clear that the stereotypes we impart in early childhood cause significant damage to our children".
She added: "But this is also a message of hope. If Government, companies, educators and parents take action, we can challenge stereotypes and change lives, making it possible for our children to live with fewer limitations."

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