Gender Stereotyping

I'm very interested in the subject of gender stereotyping, which probably isn't surprising as I'm a girl in a predominantly male industry. And I like cars, and sports, and get irritated if people assume I'm not "allowed" to be interested in these things.

Far from being discriminated against, however, I find many people ask me why there aren't more women in the industry and what can be done to encourage girls into IT. If these questions were easy to answer, they wouldn't have to be asked.

But one of my personal theories is around how we raise our children. Yes, it's possible that girls are genetically, for some reason, averse to technical types of roles. Or that the working environments don't appeal to the feminine mindset. But if you tell kids from an early age that some things are for boys and some are for girls, there just aren't going to be enough girls studying "boys" subjects later in life to get a large proportion of them into "boys" jobs.

I have a lot more to say around all these possibilities but I only want to explore one small area today. I was pointed this morning to an article on Gender and Toys. I'm mainly recording it in here so I don't forget where it is. But I found it interesting because it raises many of the same questions I have, and answers almost none of them. At this stage, I think it's very difficult to say how much of a child's preferences are there because of parental or peer pressure, and how much is natural.

I don't understand why a society can discourage the use of words like chairman (preferring "chair" or "chairperson") and that works hard to at least look like they promote equal opportunities in the workplace, can encourage gender-specific advertising to children (have you watched the adverts between cartoons?) and the blatant gender stereotyping the article talks about in toy stores.

The main point to take out of it, I think, is that we should be aware of how we raise our children. Well OK so any parent will always want the best for the child and so that's a slightly fatuous statement. What I mean is, I don't think we should inflict our own preconceptions of what a child will like based purely upon their gender, or they might grow up thinking that really is what they like. We should be allowed to develop our own preferences and exercise any skills that interest us until we find what really suits us personally.

PS The assumption that Lego is for boys in that article made me very angry. Of all toys I thought Lego was pretty good at not overtly targeting an audience, although the new trend towards Lego-for-girls has worried me since first saw it. Lego is for kids! Doesn't matter what age or gender they are!<<>/rant>


  • Trisha Gee

    Trisha is a software engineer, Java Champion and author. Trisha has developed Java applications for finance, manufacturing and non-profit organisations, and she's a lead developer advocate at Gradle.

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