How is gender stereotyping effecting our industry?
Is lazy stereotyping affecting our children before they have had the chance to make their own decisions about who they are?
As an Ambassador for Women in Construction #WIC and Diversity in Construction #DIC, and as a Mental Health First Aider - #MHFA, I truly believe that if we are to attract women and people from diverse communities, or those with disabilities into Construction, Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths #STEM, as well as support those already in the industry struggling with prejudice, hidden and visible disabilities, mental health issues and family commitments already in the industry then we need to make fundamental changes in society.
Our children and grandchildren need to be protected from the stereotyping that begins before they can walk and talk.
The new laws preventing gender stereotyping in advertising are a step in the right direction, but it isn't enough to show dad doing the cooking and mum going to work, or a boy playing with dolls and a girl playing with a truck!
We need to be more aware!!
Look at this year's batch of Christmas adverts and think, for example, why are the female characters the compassionate ones - minor tweeks could have allowed multiple diverse characters to show kindness.
Influences are everywhere and the change starts with us.
Are we still sending our daughters to dance, drama and art classes and our sons to football?
Next time you watch a children's programme or film, check to see whether male and female characters are equally represented. Are diverse characters represented? Do the characters have gender neutral names enabling children to identify with whichever character they wish. Do all characters get the opportunity to show their physical and mental strengths and weaknesses, problem solving abilities, concerns about how they dress and look or compassion for others?
Or is lazy stereotyping affecting our children before they have had the chance to make their own decisions about who they are?
We can't stop our children being exposed to these biases, but we can discuss these issues with them. Is it right that Hermione changes her appearance so she feels more attractive, but Ron and Harry don't feel the need or maybe feel intimidated to do the same?
The brilliant video below shows a female android breaking free from gender stereotypes but the sign on her front could equally be a rainbow, the country flag of their ancestor, a black cloud over their head, the wrong postcode where they grew up, a wheelchair or a walking stick, or one of the many ribbons used to represent hidden disabilities.
Children are our future, but we are the ones with the responsibility to ensure that they are able to choose what that future looks like without their own inbuilt identity bias getting in the way.
Katy Hall, Director - SC4 Carpenters Limited, www.sc4carpenters.co.uk
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