Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

What are we doing to our boys?

By: MAIRE CORBETT

Tuesday 25 February 2020

A few weeks ago, 2 boys from Colaiste Choilm in Cork, won the BT Young Scientist and Technology exhibition with a project about how early in life gender stereotyping and bias can start. The boys conducted a statistical investigation into the prevalence of gender stereotyping in 5-7-year olds and the development of an initiative to combat gender bias. Head Judge, Joe Barry outlined the project saying, “They conducted workshops with 376 children aged from 5-7 years from a range of school settings with a number of different tasks including: choosing between gender-specific and gender-neutral toys; drawing and naming an engineer; and rating male and female competency at a number of gender-specific roles.” In the study, 96% of boys drew a male engineer while just over 50% of girls drew a female engineer. The study found that gender stereotypes emerge early in young children and are particularly strong in boys. This research is seen as being important for primary schools, but we in early years know that there are strong implications for our sector too.

This prize was awarded in the Social Sciences category. While much commentary on Twitter was positive, there were comments that Behavioural and Social Science is not ‘proper’ science and that their project did not deserve to win because it wasn’t ‘proper’ science. What gives the impression that when a science project does not relate to quantum physics, it is not ‘proper’ science? That social science is less than chemistry? It is people that matter most of all!

Around the time this debate was raging, I was doing my food shop in a local supermarket. I happened to hear a conversation between a young man and a little boy, aged about 4 years. I assume they were father and son. I didn’t hear the beginning, but what I did hear was the man saying to this child that he would have to ‘Stop playing like a girl’ and then a few minutes later I heard the little boy being told he should ‘man up’. He wasn’t shouting or anything, this was normal conversation. I was horrified on a number of levels: What made this young man think it was OK to disparage girls and women in this way; what message was that little boy getting from presumably the most important male influence in his life that the way he plays is ‘like a girl’ and that this is somehow less than playing like a boy?; How will this influence his engagement with girls he meets at school, and at play? And, I wondered, what experiences had this young man had to make him think in this way?

Those of you who have done the Leadership for Inclusion (Linc) programme, or the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion training know how important it is that children get messages that are inclusive and positive about their roles. Boys need to know that it is OK to feel sad, to cry, to care, to love, to play with dolls, to like pink. Girls need to know that it is OK to wear jeans, to feel cross, to want to be an engineer, to climb trees or like Lego. Many toys shops still segregate aisles by boys toys and girls toys. The Anti-bias approach (developed by Louise Derman Sparks) helps adults and children, though the Anti-bias goals, to nurture the construction of a knowledgeable, confident identity as an individual and as a member of multiple cultural groups (such as gender, race, ethnicity, or class).

Similarly, Aistear in Aim 1 of the Identify and Belonging theme says: ‘Children will have strong self-identities and will feel respected and affirmed as unique individuals with their own life stories’.

In the images we display and the books we read we must try to address gender stereotyping. We can do this by making sure that children see female doctors and male nurses, women truck and bus drivers and male early years educators, women pilots and men receptionists and administration workers.

The research carried out by Alan O’Sullivan and Cormac Harris for their winning BT Young Scientist project reminds me of a similar project, by MullenRowe, which I read about a few years ago.  Children (20 in all aged between 5 and 7 years) were asked by three ‘teachers’ to draw a surgeon, a pilot and a firefighter. In all they drew 66 pictures and only 5 depicted women in these roles. The children are then asked if they would like to meet real-life versions of the people they drew.  To the children’s surprise the visiting teachers who had asked them to do the drawings turned out not to be teachers, but Ms Tamzin Cuming, Consultant Colorectal Surgeon in London, and member of the Women in Surgery (WinS) group at the Royal College of Surgeons, firefighter Lucy of the London Fire Brigade, and Lauren, an active RAF pilot.

There’s a saying ‘If you can’t see it, you can’t be it’. Let our boys see that caring matters, that being assertive matters and that gender is not something that stops any child being what they want to be. And hopefully little boys will not be told to 'man up' and stop playing like a girl.

Bio: 

Máire Corbett is an Early Childhood Specialist at Early Childhood Ireland. She trained in Montessori teaching and has completed an MA in Integrated Provision for Children and Families with the University of Leicester, at Pen Green.

Visiting member settings inspires me as I see the passion and energy educators put into providing great experiences for the children in their settings. I love seeing competent children at play! 

0 comments Comments

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

apps for children(1) Mindfulness(3) Magda Gerber(1) Care routines(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Norway(2) Building Resilience(1) Engineering(3) Snack Time(1) Anthony Semann(1) Awards Night(1) Seanchaí(1) Kids Own(1) Traffic Lights(1) Leadership(1) Gratitude(1) World Health Organisation(1) Rich Documentation(1) Lego(2) Learning Story(1) Siolta blog(8) presentation skills(1) quarantine kids(1) research submissions(1) Blocks(1) outdoor play(7) Mud kitchens(1) communication(4) Buddy Bench(1) Síolta(139) Intention(1) Drawing(2) SAC(1) Exclusion(1) Sessional service(1) bonds(1) ERASMUS+(3) supportive environments(2) worries(1) Deirdre Rogers(1) Universal Design(2) Large Doll Play(1) conversations(1) Design(1) Seas Suas(1) E.coli(1) Budget 2020(1) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) UNCRC(2) play pods(2) Covid-19 lockdown(1) phone apps(1) National Annual Awards 2020(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) Impact(1) Super Shed Stories(2) Trade Unions(1) Well-Being(10) Bereavement(2) mushrooms(1) developing motor skills(1) Children and families(2) Photographs(1) UD(1) dogs(1) Liz Kerrins(1) Research Conference 2019(1) Trick or treat(1) Study Trip(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) ECIAwards20(1) Competent(1) listening(1) Universal Design Guidelines(1) Shapes(2) relationships(18) Thanks(1) scéalta(58) overhear(1) AsIAm(2) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) interacting(2) ICBN(1) risky play(2) Mount Everest(1) Youtube Series(1) Decision Making(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) NAEYC(1) Administrative Burden(1) EM Standing(1) Inter-generational(2) Mark Twain(1) Playdough(1) Children's Book Club(1) under 3's(3) structure(1) Masterclass(2) Fire Safety(1) Awards(2) Event Guide(1) COVID(3) Primary School(3) Santa(2) Belonging(3) Staff Motivation(1) Frustrations(1) Self-Esteem(1) GDPR(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Positivity(1) The Lullaby Book(1) primary education(1) National Research Conference 2019(1) Department of Education and Skills(1) Hand Hygiene(2) early childhood educator(2) june29(1) Cork(1) Identity and Belonging(4) dublin(2) Trade union(1) Exit interview(1) AIM(2) creche(1) risk assessment(1) Family wall(1) TOY Programme(1) Adoption(1) Learning Stories Award(3) emotions(2) role playing(1) Covid pandemic(3) Self Help Skills(1) Kindness Challenge(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) emotional well-being(1) Party(1) pablo(1) Supernanny(1) Pedagogical leaders(1) emotional environment(2) Child Care(1) children development(1) memories(1) Horizon 2020(1) Maths(6) Valentine's Day(3) Love(3) linc(1) School Age Childcare(2) Certificate(1) Playschool(1) Iceland(2) built environments(1) Social Skills(1) Fantasy play(1) Human Resources(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Malaguzzi(1) Autism(4) Looking Back(1) RIE philosphy(1) Return to Work Training(1) Twitter(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) educarer(1) maternity health(1) Inter-generational learning(2) Interactions(3) social media policy(1) Aistear(132) Croatia(1) Nutrition(1) HR(1) baby room(1) risk(2) Through the looking glass(1) coronavirus(1) books(5) refugees(1) Reading Time(2) outdoor space(3) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Mental Health(4) Capable(1) pets(1) play pod(1) Whole Group(1) UK(1) National Childcare Scheme(1) RTE Investigates(1) worldbookday(1) TRAP(1) Yoga(1) natural environment(1) Maria Montessori(1) preschool(4) Academic Skills(1) Iraq(1) Graduation(1) Children's Rights(3) democratic citizens(1) Elders(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Inspections(1) ears(1) Scéalta Book Review(1) Obesity(1) Health(2) early childhood ireland research(1) Mayo(1) STEAM(1) IGL(1) Treasure Chest(1) Investment(2) Research Seminar(1) Ariana Pucci(1) Weather(1) Covid19 crisis(1) preschool settings(1) Performing(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(2) play stories(2) early years learning(1) Glitter(2) Leadership for INClusion in the Early Years(1) Mealtimes(1) women in research(1) Snacks(1) CCTV(1) awards 2020(1) Early Childhood Education(1) Routines(2) St. Patrick's Day(1) research(8) Diversity(1) Sequins(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) Online Research Symposium(3) Snakes(1) Loss(1) Syria(1) Infection Control(1) mental health problems(1) multi-generational community(1) Teamwork(1) Interaction(1) Europe(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) routine(2) Small World Play(1) Proceedings Journal(1) World book day(1) Facebook(1) EECERA 2016(1) Body Language(1) Engineers Week(2) Maths Week Ireland(1) guardian(1) Confidence(1) Reggio Children Network(1) Light table(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Imagination(3) Time Out(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Sustainability(3) toddlers(3) keep in touch(1) Children's Research Network(2) Sculptures(1) European Early Childhood Education Research Association(2) reopening(1) National Early Childhood Research Conference(2) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) development(9) The Play and Learning in the Early Years(1) Xbox(1) Laugh(1) education(2) online training(1) curiosity(3) Book Club(2) Touch(1) planning(1) Kerry(1) behavioural science(1) meals(3) Cognitive development(1) science week(2) Engineering Ireland(1) Socioemotional development(1) Wendy Lee(4) College(1) parents(7) Orla Kenny(1) Support(1) Policy(2) PIP(1) Sweets(1) Learning Stories(9) Japan(1) Exercise(1) Graduate(1) Visitors(1) youdoodle(1) Document Learning(1) Digital(1) Regulation 23(1) healthy eating policies(1) Child mental health(1) partnership with families(1) code of ethics(1) Italy(1) Engagement(1) man up(1) COVID-19(18) Wrapping paper(1) peer group(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) child led(1) Arlene Forster(1) Growing up Outdoors(2) Participation(2) Learning Journal(2) Recycling(2) Exploratory Play(1) christmas(9) preschools(1) an post(1) Consent(1) Degree(1) Performance Management(1) Inspirational(2) Leaders in Practice(1) QRF(1) dining experiences(1) Giraffe(2) environments(1) Plants(1) Sustainable(1) listen(1) upskilling(1) Penguins(1) Valerie Gaynor(1) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) Gardening(1) life long learning(1) story time(2) community(5) Oireachtas(1) Role play(1) Childcare(3) Early Childhood Ireland(10) Inclusion(3) Environment(2) Nonverbal(1) early years research(3) DES Inspection(1) Scéalta Blog(106) Meet the Members(1) Margy Whalley(1) Learning through Storytelling(2) Inspired Practice Awards(1) Counting(1) Magic(1) continual professional development(1) Appreciation(1) Early Years(1) Loving Relationships(2) Early Childhood Care and Education(2) Vertical grouping(1) INTO(1) Painting(1) Interests(1) Thank you(1) early childhood(1) Opportunities(1) collaboration(1) play therapy(1) Plastic(1) education system(1) Maynooth University(2) Budget 2018(1) early life(1) ELC(1) playleader(1) Women(1) child safeguarding(1) Trauma-Sensitive(1) Easter(1) Biting(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) staying connected(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) learning bias(1) social media(2) Síolta QAP(1) Albert Einstein(1) children’s learning(1) Culture(2) Sociodramatic play(1) early year’s classrooms(1) Infectious diseases(1) Treasure(1) science(3) Home Corner(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) dining(1) Confident(1) code of professional responsibility(1) outdoor environment(1) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) Equality(1) Awards 2019(1) budget(1) Pobal sector profile(1) Leprechauns(1) TUSLA(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) Dance(1) educating(1) Pobal(1) Titles(1) reopening ireland(1) Care-giving routines(1) Behaviour(3) San Miniato(4) Scents(1) Prexit(1) Self-regulation(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) GoToMeeting app(1) Inspiring Practice(1) racism(1) Workforce(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) partnership(1) SPICE Framework(1) Nordic model(1) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) Mo Scéal(1) Academics(1) Line-ups(1) Flowers(1) Pre-School Services(1) Affordability(1) The Jelly King(1) Upcycling(1) Winter(1) Funding(1) democracy(1) Communicating(1) stories(3) Time(1) documentation(4) Traditions(2) Sleep(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) Communications(1) Early Years Education(1) family time(1) food(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) gender stereotype(1) blog(56) Running(1) Window(1) Change(1) Unesco(1) CPD(1) Fabric(1) Halloween(2) CIT(1) Kilkenny(1) show and tell(1) responsive relationships(1) homeschool(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(2) Decisions(1) Aistear Siolta in Action(1) Qualifications(1) Meal time(1) Recycle(1) Challenges(1) Budget 2019(2) Feeding(1) Looking Forward(1) Buddies(1) Early Years Educators(3) Professionalisation(5) Afghanistan(1) National Awards 2019(1) Stress(2) Childhood(2) Queues(1) DCYA(6) Death(2) National Pyjama Day(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) Fee Play(1) Covid response(2) Maynooth(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Exploring(1) Educators(2) journey(1) ECEC Setting(2) lockdown(1) Storytelling(8) Summer(2) keezy(1) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) babies(7) Art(6) learners(1) First 5(1) trust(4) Games(2) Eritrea(1) Story(2) Technology(3) Effect of Lockdown(1) Quality(4) inspiring interactions(1) Wesco(1) Wilenski(1) First 5 transitions for children award(1) learning(19) MECPI(1) Employee(1) gender bias(1) Pen green(1) Brain(1) Reflective Practice(1) Mixed age groups(3) grandchild(1) childcare services(1) Settling in(4) Limerick(1) Sport(1) Visual Impairment(1) friendships(1) animals(2) Spiders(1) scientific and artistic processes(1) ReCreate(2) Skillnet(1) Jenga(1) Learning Story Awards(2) Builders(1) Craft(1) UK Government(1) Independence(1) play(37) Creativity(7) National Holiday(1) Workplace well-being(1) child-centred approach(1) STEM(3) Reggio Emilia(2) Online(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(2) Adverse Childhood Experiences(1) Learning journals(1) Reopening Childcare(1) art of the relationship(1) purpose(1) Early Learning and Care(2) Smiles(1) curriculum(7) Workplace Relations(3) United Nations(1) respect(5) Little Buddies(1) iOS(1) Mantra(1) EECERA(1) COVID-19 Reopening(2) New Appointments(1) annual awards(1) Arithmetic(1) Children(8) Map(1) transitions(10) Inspired Practice Award(6) Family(1) Our Little Seed(1) Return to Work(1) quarantine(2) NCCA(4) bloom app(1) COVID-19 landscape(1) experience(1) conference(1) Irish guidelines(1) social science(1) Reggio(1) Digital Devices(1) Potential(1) annual conference(1) child-centric(1) Motor neuron disease(1) Community involvement(1) timekeeping skills(1) Breathing(2) COVID-19 crisis(1) Pedagogy(2) Favouritism(1) Tuscan Approach(2) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) MA(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) Wonder(1) Together Old and Young Programme(1) European Project(1) Advocacy(1) InspireMe.ie(1) Grief(1) eating(1) Montessori(3) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) outdoors(4) Pretend Play(1) Magnavacchi(1) Trigonometry(1) imotion(1) Laughter(1) Leargas(1) early years settings(1) Empathy(1) National Awards 2018(2) Relaxation(1) movement behaviours(1) Patterns(1) Names(1) Vietnam(1) Celebrate(1) University(1) Anxiety(2) Ceremony(1) Maths Week(1) Children's Voice(1) Your place(1) ECCE(7) Arts(1) Training(3) Identity(5) UNICEF report(1) Creative(1) reading(6) ECEC(4) Shoes(1) Music(3) Mathematicians(1) UN(1) Rituals(1) Kindness(1) feisty(1) Nuturing interactions(1) Maternity Leave(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) aistear blog(3) Celebrations(4) Awards 2018(3) International Narratives(1) value(1) Book Review(1) Thinking(1) Irish(1) learning hub(2) First 5 strategy(1)

SIGN UP FOR BLOG UPDATES

SUBSCRIBE
Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine