6. Reflect on the impact of gender stereotypes on children and young people

Gender stereotypes are generalisations about the traits women and men are assumed to possess. Gender stereotypes reinforce the idea that women and girls, men and boys, should act in certain ways, look certain ways and are better suited to certain roles in society. Children are shaped and limited by gender stereotypes from a very young age.

Check out two of the following items and reflect on the impacts of gender stereotypes on children, and what we can do to challenge this:

  • Have a look at this clip which looks at the ways limiting gender stereotypes effect girls and young women’s sense of self and this clip to understand the impact on boys and young men.
  • Reflect on this clip, which demonstrates the way adults can unintentionally reinforce limiting gender stereotypes with young children.
  • Check out this short clip featuring primary school children engaged in a creative drawing activity, and reflect on how gender stereotypes can limit children’s aspirations and the way they see the world and their place in it.

Gender stereotypes effect everyone, but they are particularly harmful for girls and women because we live in a society where characteristics associated with men and masculinity are seen as more valuable than those considered feminine, or associated with women. As such, gender stereotypes support the foundations of gender inequality, by creating a different status for girls and boys.

How does it help?

Gender stereotypes play a key role in producing gender inequality and research has found that factors associated with gender inequality are the most consistent predictors of violence against women (Our Watch, 2015: 23)

Research demonstrates that “levels of violence against women are significantly and consistently higher in societies, communities and relationships where there are more rigid distinctions between the roles of men and women” and that “men who hold traditional, hierarchical views about gender roles and relationships are more likely to perpetrate violence against women. (Our Watch, 2015: 25).

With this evidence in mind, fostering positive personal identities and challenging gender stereotypes and roles has been identified as an essential action for preventing violence against women.(Our Watch, 2015).

Gender stereotyping also has an impact on the hopes and aspirations of children and on how they see themselves. Gender stereotypes can prevent children from exploring and developing their interests and talents and from reaching their potential.

Keep going!

  • Take steps to avoid gender stereotyping when in the company of children and young people. This list provides some tips to help you do this. So does this clip – ‘Things to say to young girls that aren’t “You Look Pretty Today”‘.
  • The Level Playground website provides parents, caregivers and educators with helpful information and resources to support them in the day-to-day work of raising children free from limiting gender stereotypes.
  • Check out the Play Unlimited campaign to learn more about the impact of gender stereotyping on children and to learn about the work that is being done to reduce harmful gendered marketing to children.
  • Browse this helpful guide listing children’s picture books that promote gender equality and challenge gender stereotypes, or consider the Free to be Me checklist to help you select books that do not reinforce harmful gender stereotypes.

Learn more

  • Did you know that pink was once considered a very masculine colour? Read this short article to find out more.
  • Watch this clip to hear from Elizabeth Sweet, who discusses her research on the impact of gender stereotypical toys on boys and girls. Take some time to reflect on why this might be and the possible consequences of this blue vs pink world of toys.

Please note that these clips/articles contain information regarding the topics of sexism, gender inequality and violence against women. If you find the information distressing, please click through for information and support on self care. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, please visit the our help section for further information and support.