22/01/2018 11:09 SAST | Updated 22/01/2018 11:09 SAST

Gendered Career Expectations Start As Young As Age 7

Boys show a preference for working with things, whereas girls aspire to caring professions or working with people.

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Children's career aspirations from as young as seven are often based on gender stereotypes, a new report reveals.

Named Drawing The Future, the report, drawn up by a U.K.-based charity Education and Employers, asked primary-school children aged seven to 11 what they wanted to become when they were older. They were asked to draw their ideal future job and what influenced them in their answer.

Over 20,000 entries were received from the U.K., Pakistan, China and African countries that included Uganda and Zambia.

Education and Employers

Education and Employer

Education and Employer

To determine the factors influencing career choices, the survey also asked participants whether they personally knew anyone who did the job, and if not, how they knew about the job, as well as their favourite subject.

These were the key findings of the report:

  • In terms of gender stereotyping and gendered career expectations, aspirations tend to lie in stereotypical masculine or feminine roles across the sample. One of the most popular jobs for boys is often police and armed forces, while teaching emerges as one of the most popular professions for girls.
  • In keeping with popular theories around masculine and feminine roles, boys showed preference for working with things – e.g., as an engineer or scientist – while girls aspired to jobs working with people or caring professions – e.g., as a teacher, nurse or vet.
  • Parents and other members of extended family were often the biggest influencers if the respondent indicated that they knew someone personally who did that job. The exception was in developing countries such as Uganda and Zambia, where the teacher is often the biggest influence. If a young person did not know someone personally who did that job, the media was found to be the biggest influencer.
  • The survey also revealed that children's career aspirations have little in common with projected workforce needs in their countries.

"Drawing the Future demonstrates the need for primary school-age children to have more exposure to role models from the world of work from an early age. This is vital to ensure that children better understand the world they are growing up in, are aware of the vast range of career options open to them, and are not ruling things out at an early age," said Nick Chambers, Education and Employer's CEO.

"The drawings also show clear gender patterns. But there is a simple solution that is easy to implement. All children, regardless of their social background, where they live or the jobs their parents do, should have the same chance to meet people doing a wide range of jobs to help them understand the vast opportunities open to them. It is something governments and policy makers around the world should give much more consideration," said Andreas Schleicher, director for education and skills at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.