There is no time as relevant as International Women's Week #IWD2020 and National @CareersWeek #NCW2020 to debunk some tired gender stereotypes. Between the 2nd and the 6th of March we will celebrate all things careers-based and discuss how some industries still need to do better.

As the week focusses on getting young people into their desired fields, let’s take a look at how gender has previously had a negative impact on this, and what we can do to amend this issue.

Are men and women still treated differently in the workplace?

Customers’ opinions and behaviours undoubtably change in relation to the perceived gender of the job. As well as this, men and women are treated differently when displaying the very same attributes in the workplace. An ambitious woman, for example, might be referred to as ‘bossy’, while a man acting in the exact same manner may be perceived as ambitious.

This trend can be seen from early childhood and must therefore be addressed in schools. Careers week should focus on debunking these gender stereotypes from a young age and make young people aware of the fact that their gender doesn’t confine them to certain career paths.

Why do we perceive some jobs differently to others?

Sadly, people have all-to-often been held back in their careers because of their gender. Not only do we assign gender roles to people within our society, but we also stereotype jobs with these same set of arbitrary rules. Think about the following fields: nursing, engineering, banking, hairdressing — do you automatically assign each career path a typical gender in your head?

We all fall into this trap. Even though times are most certainly changing, some career-based stereotypes are proving hard to shake. What’s more, when men and women do embark on the same career path, they are often treated differently to one another. They are treated differently both by other people within the business and any customers the business is providing a service for.

BBC workplace magazine conducted one study that shows this gender bias in a new light. A relatively new job (which is therefore not-yet assigned to a certain gender) was studied in close detail. The researchers looked at the role of ‘microfinance loan manager’, a role which is split roughly 50/50 between genders. The study considered how loan borrowers responded differently to female loan managers and male managers, who were both in the exact same position.

The results of this study showed a trend of people reacting differently, dependant on whether they considered the job a ‘male’ job or a ‘female’ job. If the first loan collector they were assigned to was male, the customer tended to treat the role with more seriousness, assuming the loan manager had more authority and that this role was typically ‘male’.

On the other hand, those who had been initially assigned female loan collectors began to think of the position as a ‘female’ role. They were seen to treat the repayments less seriously from then on — even if they were reassigned to male loan managers later. This study proved that the gendering of a job happens in an instant, and it can totally alter customers attitudes toward the role and the person completing it.

What’s being done?

Despite all of this, change is certainly on the horizon. Initiatives such as Women in STEM are encouraging more and more women to enter into traditionally male-dominated workforces such as engineering. In 2018, women made up 21.8 per cent of the engineering sector, and 46.4 per cent of girls aged 11 to 14 said they would consider a career in engineering, a figure that has been seen to gradually increase over recent years. More and more women are set to embark on a career in engineering and construction, either in the planning stages, or on-site, operating cherry pickers.

At the opposite end of the scale, we are also seeing more and more men entering into the nursing profession. In 2019, there was a nine per cent increase of the amount of men applying to study nursing at university and many areas are working hard to keep these numbers on the rise. In Scotland for example, the ambition is to have a 25:75 male: female split in this industry by 2030. These numbers are set to keep increasing, and the gender imbalance that we see in certain careers today will hopefully lessen as time passes.

Although we are not quite there yet, it will the workforce is heading towards gender equality. The concept of gendered jobs is already disappearing as more and more people choose to break the mould.

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