What Happens When Children Are Asked to Draw a Surgeon, Firefighter, and a Fighter-Pilot – Re: Gender Stereotyping in Occupations
How early are gender stereotypes ingrained? This video has the answer.
You may think we’ve come a long way from the days when a nurse was assumed to be female and a doctor male, but a recent experiment involving young primary school students suggests otherwise.
When asked to draw images of a fire fighter, jet pilot and surgeon, over 90 per cent of students in a British classroom identified their drawings as male.
Their surprise when they were confronted with women in those uniforms goes to show just how deeply rooted their assumptions were.
A video produced by Inspiring the Future shows the children’s surprise as the three professionals that have come to meet them are revealed to be women. One student yells, “fake” while another insists “they’re dressed up”.
Children as young as pre-school start pondering what they want to be when they grow up, but behaviour around the home, toys, and images from the media, shape children’s perception of what certain professions look like.
If what young girls and boys imagine is heavily influenced by gender roles, a host of career options can effectively become closed to them – something which they may carry with them as they grow.
As the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner explains, “a gender stereotype is harmful when it limits women’s and men’s capacity to develop their personal abilities, pursue their professional careers and make choices about their lives and life plans.”
In this way stereotypes can further inequality as evidenced both in the types of professions young women and men gravitate towards, and the gender pay gap, which currently sees Australian women earn 83 cents for every dollar a man earns (or $261 less a week).
Children start making assumptions about gender stereotypes at a young age and harmful ones can negatively influence their future career path.
There’s an interesting riddle which goes along the lines of:
A father and his son are in a car accident. The father dies at the scene and the son is rushed to the hospital.
At the hospital the surgeon looks at the boy and says, “I can’t operate on this boy, he is my son.” How can this be?
Did you figure it out?
The surgeon is his mother.
On hearing the riddle, many people are confused, or take a few seconds to find the answer. The reasoning behind the delay is something that you have likely never even thought about: ingrained gender stereotype. It’s the reason why when you hear of a surgeon, many immediately picture a man, instead of a woman.
Redraw The Balance, a brilliant campaign by leading creative agency MullenLowe London for the charity Inspiring the Future, aims to change this.
Gender stereotypes are defined between the ages of 5 and 7 years old.
When a class of 22 children between the ages of 5 and 7 in the UK were asked to draw a firefighter, surgeon and a fighter pilot, 61 pictures were drawn of men and only 5 were female.
The powerful two minute film depicting this was shot on location at Whitstable Junior School in Kent and captures how, “early on in their education, children already define career opportunities as male and female”.
After drawing their images, the children are stunned to see that the women they’d originally been in the classroom drawing images with, are actually a firefighter, surgeon and a fighter pilot.
“Not one person, apart from one girl, put the firefighter down as a female.” – Lucy, Firefighter, London Fire Brigade
Exposing children to a variety of positive role models at a young age is important, especially as girls decide to leave STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Maths) by the age of 11, when they’re in an education system where the choice of subjects severely limits their options for working in other fields later.
To encourage more girls to consider a future career in STEM you need to inspire them when they’re young and provide them with tangible, visible role models, to prevent ingrained gender stereotypes from developing.
…These are important stats to consider and highlights the importance of the #RedrawTheBalance campaign to show young girls that they too can achieve their career goal, and be a pilot, firefighter or surgeon if they want to be.
The female fighter pilot, firefighter and surgeon also each give an insight into their professional experiences, describing the barriers they overcame and the challenges they still face, doing what many perceive as a man’s job.
…On why she became a pilot: “I decided to be a pilot quite a long time ago. I was sitting in a school classroom and the teacher was talking about the countries in the world, saying that there were so many and no-one gets to visit them all. I was feeling quite defiant that day and decided I would, and to do that I had to become a pilot.”
On what advice she’d give other girls wanting to be a pilot: “In my opinion what you need to become a pilot is to be enthusiastic, passionate, driven and to be able. None of those traits are gender specific.” – Lauren, Pilot, Royal Air Force
-Children aged five to seven drew pictures of people doing different jobs
-Nearly all drawings of firefighters, surgeons and pilots featured men
-Video shows the class looking shocked as three women walk into the room
They say gender stereotyping begins at a young age, and that was certainly the case when a group of primary school children were asked to draw people doing different jobs.
A video shows a group of five to seven-year-olds at Whitstable Junior School, Kent, being told to draw pictures of what they think a firefighter, surgeon and fighter pilot look like.
Nearly all the drawings feature men with names like Gary or Simon, with one child adding: ‘He’s big and strong’.
Primary school children reveal reality of gender stereotyping
But when the children were given the chance to meet three people doing these jobs, they weren’t who they expected to see.
Tamsin, an NHS sugeon, Lauren, an RAF pilot and Lucy, a firefighter from the London Fire Brigade, come into the classroom.
The children appear to be shocked that all three are women, but quickly begin quizzing them about their jobs.
Of the 66 pictures drawn by the children that day, only five of them were women.
In the video, the youngsters talk about the men they have drawn. One says ‘Mine’s called firefighter Gary’, while another describes his firefighter as being ‘big and strong’.
When asked what his surgeon is called, a boy replies: ‘Jimbob. He’s a brain surgeon’.
Other children add that ‘he would wear a stethoscope’ and ‘he gives you medicine.
When describing their pilots, one boy says ‘This is his jet plane’ while another adds that ‘he rescues people’.
The charity’s Inspiring Women campaign aims to get women into schools to talk about their careers.
The campaign calls on women to pledge an hour of their time to break down stereotypes of all kinds in schools.