U-Multirank says gender stereotyping is still prevalent, so how do we tackle this issue?
On International Men’s Day, Conservative MP Nick Fletcher linked young men committing crime to a lack of positive role models, suggesting that ‘female replacements’ of lead TV characters like Dr Who were to blame. When Members of Parliament fail to see the value of female, male and non-binary role models for all young people, regardless of their gender, we clearly have a long way to go to before we achieve gender equality.
Indeed, U-Multirank published its Gender Monitor this month. Its report stated, “Gender has been and still is a major dimension of inequalities in higher education.”
“No demographic characteristic is so fraught with stereotypes than that of gender. In social life, school and, of course, even later in higher education, some people live or are bound by these stereotypes: ‘women are more social’, ‘men are more technically adept’ – even the choice of study courses is influenced by the social constructs of gender.”
Which subjects suffer from gender stereotyping?
Having surveyed 900 high education institutions from more than 80 countries between 2018-19, the Gender Monitor analysis has found that engineering, computer science, physics and mathematics continue to be male-dominated fields. On the other hand, nursing, social work, education, psychology and biology are predominantly female-dominated fields.
Political science, business studies, chemistry, history, agriculture and economics are the most gender-balanced subjects.
Given that gender stereotyping in subject choice still pervades, it is vital that we, as teachers, parents and education providers, tackle this issue as much as we can.
How to tackle gender stereotyping in the classroom
1. Identify your own gender biases. There is such a thing as unconscious bias, which means that, unconsciously, you could be making gender biased decisions in the classroom and elsewhere. If you are aware of your own biases, you will be less likely to project them on to your students.
Project Implicit is the original unconscious bias test, created by scientists from the University of Washington, the University of Virginia and Harvard University. Their test is available for free online: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html
2. Challenge stereotypes when you see (or hear) them. According to the National Education Union and UK Feminista, a quarter of all secondary school teachers say they witness gender stereotyping and discrimination in their school on a daily basis. It is therefore crucial to make students (and colleagues) aware of gender stereotyping whenever it occurs. The Careers & Enterprise Company has a free lesson plan on challenging stereotypes: https://resources.careersandenterprise.co.uk/resources/challenging-stereotypes-lesson
3. Use materials that challenge rather than reinforce gender stereotypes. At Futurum, for example, we ensure that all our resources are gender balanced. We profile both female and male researchers, who may be working in gender-dominated fields, and refer to them by their professional titles (Professor, Dr), not by their gender. We ensure our resources are inclusive of all identities, not simply the binary genders of ‘male’ and ‘female’, and adapt our materials accordingly. We show different genders working together in equal partnership, highlighting that real-world problems are often solved through collaboration. We choose illustrations and moving images that challenge gender stereotypes, and reflect on the language we use for, and to describe, others.
4. Remember that we are all on a learning curve. At Futurum, we strive to make our resources gender balanced, but it is also important to remind ourselves that this way of thinking does not always come naturally (if you take the Project Implicit test, you’ll understand why). The thought-processes that lead us to becoming more informed and less biased are just as valid.
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