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Original Published Date: 
Thursday, October 21, 2021

Full article published in The Conversation.

Associate Professor Laura Scholes is a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award recipient at the Australian Catholic University, who led a research project that has shown that by the early years of primary school, gender stereotypes have already influenced children – leading them to aspire to 'traditional' male and female vocations.

Professor Scholes says that this bias flows into lower numbers of girls taking STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects at school. In turn, this means fewer women are going on to work in the sciences, where women make up only 28% of the STEM workforce.

The gender gap is particularly high in the fastest-growing and highest-paid jobs of the future, such as computer science and engineering.

'We spoke with 332 students (176 girls and 156 boys) from 14 schools and found 7 and 8-year-old children have already made up their minds about what jobs they want in the future. Girls overwhelmingly aspire to traditionally 'feminine' jobs, while boys are attracted to 'masculine' pursuits,' say the researchers.

'For example, the top three choices for boys include careers in professional sports, STEM-related jobs, and policing or defence. Meanwhile, girls either want to be teachers, work with animals, or pursue a career in the arts.'

The research also found differences in opinion that seemed to correlate with social class. Boys from affluent school communities (30%) aspired to STEM careers more than boys from disadvantaged school communities (8%), while girls from disadvantaged school communities had a greater desire to 'help' and 'care'.

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Image: Stocksnap (CC0).