Career expert: Stereotypes and subject choices

Reading time: about 2 mins

Careers Adviser Beth Urquhart explains why you shouldn't let stereotypes get in the way of your subject choices. 

‘These blue jobs are for boys and those pink jobs are for girls…right?’ A class of secondary school pupils say, ‘That’s wrong!’

As a careers adviser working in school, I had a class discussion about gender stereotypes with a group of young people who were about to make subject choices. The class agreed that there’s no such thing as jobs for boys or for girls. 

But when I asked them to imagine what type of person they associated with certain jobs (doctor, army officer, nursery assistant, hairdresser) they admitted they thought of someone of a specific gender.

Breaking down stereotypes

So why should we worry about breaking gender stereotypes? My class suggested it would bring different views to a work place and different skills and talents into professions which are usually dominated by one sex. 

You are so lucky, because you can do anything you want to. With career choice (and subject choices) your gender is no longer a barrier.

They gave some examples. Getting more boys into caring and teaching could be good for patients and children. For example, a little boy in a nursery who doesn’t have a dad at home might benefit from having a male carer or teacher. More girls in construction and garage work would be nice for a change for customers who don’t only want to deal with men in those environments.

Of course there are factors to consider if you choose a career mostly done by people of the opposite sex. Some people might feel uncomfortable being the only boy in a class of girls (though others might think it could be a good thing!). You may find you have to deal with other peoples prejudices, too. 

What can we do about it?

One way we can avoid stereotyping is to stop using ‘man’ or ‘woman’ in the job title. For example Tradesperson instead of Tradesman, Fire Fighter instead of Fireman and so on. Can you think of some? Are there some job titles that are more tricky to find gender neutral equivalents for such as Binman (waste disposal operative or refuse collector)?

Thankfully, you can now pick a career path (and subjects) based first on whether you would enjoy it and be good at it – not whether it’s done by men or women.  In the past, this thinking has given us female scientists, pilots and doctors, male nurses and make-up artists, and we’re the better for it.

You are so lucky, because you can do anything you want to. With career choice (and subject choices) your gender is no longer a barrier.

Beth Urquhart

Beth Urquhart
Beth Urquhart
Careers Adviser