This Change Must Come From Different Directions

By Bill Proudman


But, why are these stereotypes developing at such a young age?

“It is still unclear where the stereotypes come from. Parents, teachers and peers and the media are the usual suspects,” says Associate Professor Andrei Cimpian, the co-author of the NYU study, “But it is evident that action must be taken so that these biases don’t curtail girls’ professional aspirations.”

Parent Power

Before we get to the corporate context we must look at the home environment. Parents have a big influence on their children’s lives, so it follows much of the responsibility to address gender biases lies with them.

We know that parents—who naturally want the best for their children—are proactive when it comes to combating negative gender stereotyping. I want to share some of the good news stories I’ve heard through the grapevine about parents combating disempowering stereotypes:

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For starters, many parents actively avoid over-protecting girls by encouraging them to take the same physical risks and challenges as boys. They also encourage girls to help with tasks traditionally considered male, such as heavy manual or technical chores, and vice versa.

Secondly, other parents have been shown to fight gender bias and help develop an empowered attitude in their daughters by making traditionally gender-specific tasks gender-neutral. Girls can work in the toolshed too.

Gina Davis, actress and a leading campaigner for gender equality, explains how her assertive attitude came from being properly empowered as a child. Her dad encouraged her to help him with tasks that could be considered traditionally male orientated.

“I remember as a child there was a hurricane and the power had gone off, and [Dad] had said, ‘Come, we’re getting the kerosene lanterns out of the storm cellar to bring into the house.’ 

I remember going outside in the storm and down into the cellar helping him. It was always like that. ‘Come up on the roof, we’re putting shingles on.’ I felt like I could learn and do anything.”

Finally, there is room for some direct education too. We have seen many parents doing this too by challenging common gender biases they see against girls in in the media or traditional fairy tales, so girls and boys don’t think this is the accepted norm.



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