Every week I read another news article about gender discrimination. According to the World Economic Forum, the gender pay gap has increased this year. It is now estimated that it will take 170 years for women to have the same pay and employment opportunities as men.
Equal Pay Day
Even in the UK, there is still a 13.9% gender pay gap among full-time workers. To represent this figure, there is an annual Equal Pay Day. This year, Equal Pay Day is on 10th November. The reason this day was chosen is because it signifies the day when women effectively stop earning in comparison to their male counterparts.
This year, the Fawcett Society are asking people to join in with their Equal Pay Day campaign. They’re asking people to use the hashtags #EqualValue and #EqualPayDay on social media to raise awareness of the issue.
I love the fact that this campaign is happening and I hope it moves mountains. But I personally think that the problem is more deep rooted than that. Just in the past few weeks there have been three incidents that have made me cross.
Gender Stereotyping Is Alive And Kicking
My daughters are four and two years old and already they are subjected to gender stereotyping. A few weeks ago, we were eating dinner when a conversation started at the dinner table. My four year old explained that her friend had hurt herself, so she’d gone to see the school doctor. Understandably, my husband found it unlikely that there would be a doctor present at school. So he asked her a question:
Was it a lady or a gentleman?
Libby answered that it was a lady. Then my husband uttered the words:
It was probably a nurse then.
I must admit I found it very difficult to keep my temper when this was said. I explained to the girls that whether it was a lady or a gentleman was irrelevant. That ladies can be doctors and gentlemen can be nurses. But the damage was done.
The other thing I have noticed recently is that there has been a particular toy doing the rounds on people’s blogs. I’ve read some lovely reviews and it looks like a great toy. But it is a toy that would typically be aimed at boys. And I haven’t read one review from the point of view of a little girl. Likewise, dolls do the rounds on blogs and it’s very rare to see one reviewed by a boy. I was delighted when I saw this review on Mum to a Monster – Alyssa’s little boy loved his doll.
The third incident that really got me thinking was something my husband picked up on. Despite his obvious “error” in the above scenario, he is generally very aware of gender stereotyping and keen that our girls get the same opportunities as boys.
I don’t want to go into any detail about this one, but it’s safe to say that one of our girls went to an event recently. Before the event, we were told that the girls would all be doing one activity and the boys would be doing another. Each activity was very stereotypical in terms of gender and yet had our daughter been given the choice, she would have preferred the boys’ activity.
It’s Never Too Early To Learn About Equality
I’m glad that Equal Pay Day is taken seriously. I’m delighted that people are campaigning for gender equality. But until we stop stereotyping tiny children, there will always be an issue. It takes a lot of confidence to go against society’s expectations. Few teenagers are self-assured enough to defy the critics and follow their dreams.
Not enough females go into STEM careers. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. This is problematic for several reasons and pay is actually the least of my concerns. STEM subjects are important. People working in these areas will be the inventors, the innovators, the forward thinkers. The people who find cures to diseases, combat global warming and find out things we never dreamed we could learn about the universe.
These are the people who will change the world. And different individuals bring different skill sets to those careers. So if only a tiny number of females go into these stereotypical male roles, we will miss out on their incredible minds working towards a better future.
What are your experiences of gender stereotyping and how do you think we can put a stop to it and achieve true gender equality?