Sexism in schools: 57% of teachers admit they stereotype girls & boys

By Kitty Knowles 7 February 2017

Your little girl's teacher could be steering her away from STEM subjects. Not cool.

You’d hope the most dangerous teacher in your child’s world today would be made-up characters like Roald Dahl’s Miss Trunchbull.

But the truth is far harder to swallow.

Teachers are upstanding pillars of society, but some are holding our kids back.

Sexist stereotypes

An upsetting 57% of British teachers admit to making ‘subconscious stereotypes’ about girls and boys, a new report from Accenture reveals today.

These admissions were made in relation to whether girls or boys were better suited to STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths), as part of a survey of more than 8,500 young people, parents and teachers.

Whether conscious or not, the implication is that teachers have steered girls away from STEM subjects.

Something we cannot let slide.

Parents are nearly as bad

We can imagine the concern parents might feel reading this. But it’s important to take a moment to self-reflect too:

A shocking 52% of parents also admitted to the same subconscious stereotyping.

Clearly, attitudes at home affect attitudes at school, and 54% of teachers claim to have seen girls dropping STEM subjects at school due to pressure from parents.

But this isn’t a blame game – both parents and schools clearly need to shape up.

Overcome prejudice

It’s simply no longer acceptable to harbour harmful prejudices, especially when it’s skewing the views of kids in schools.

When asked, a third (32%) of young people said they thought more boys choose STEM subjects because they match ‘male’ careers or jobs, with girls more likely to view them as ‘academic’ and ‘boring’.

A further 36% said they were put off studying STEM subjects because they felt unclear about what careers they would support.

Calling for change

Kids need more support both at school and at home: no child should feel limited by their gender.

“Girls’ engagement with STEM is clearly waning as they reach the age when they begin to consider their subject choices and future careers,” said Emma McGuigan, senior managing director for Accenture Technology in the UK & Ireland.

“We have to address this by doing more to spark and retain girls’ interest in STEM at an early age, while expanding perceptions and demonstrating what a career or a person who works in STEM looks like.”

Fueling stereotypes simply isn’t good enough, and will hold back progress on all fronts.

After all, we need girls to help address the skills gap in science and technology, and to create the kind of diverse workforce that we know works best.