When, in the course of our lives, gender stereotypes are formed? And how strong can they be at an early childhood stage? RedrawTheBalance is an impactful exercise and online video by the UK charity ‘Inspiring the Future’. If only it was replicated in many more places…!
What happens, when you ask twenty-ish primary school children to draw pictures of a firefighter, a surgeon and a fighter pilot. Even though the task was described in a carefully gender-neutral way, 61 pictures were drawn of men (including male names and typical male accessories) and 5 were drawn of female. This happened during an exercise at the Whitstable Junior School (England) in which school children aged between five and seven took part.
When they were proud about their art works, they were asked if they wanted to meet those people in real. Foreseeably, everyone said yes and doors opened to allow three people entering the classroom, all wearing their professional uniforms, and all being women.
The power of the video comes from that moment, when the camera closes up on the children’s faces as they realise their own assumptions. It is one of several initiatives run by the charity ‘Inspiring the Future’. “The project opens up the world of work to the children – right at the age where they are beginning to develop their aspirations and ambitions,” National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) Secretary-General, Russell Hobby, commented and added “It helps to break down gender stereotypes and preconceptions, improving life chances, especially for those living in areas of deprivation.”
The charity ‘Inspiring the Future’ works with thousands of primary and secondary schools and they make a genuine difference. Especially for young people who do not always get to meet people doing ‘any jobs’ let alone interesting or unusual ones. In Folkestone, for example, they held and event introducing children to jobs they haven’t heard of before, broadening their horizons and encouraging them to aim high. Diverse volunteers taking part ranged from the Head of Coastal Operations at the Maritime & Coastguard Agency to an Associate Surveyor from Women in Surveying. According to 2015 research published by Kent County Council, Folkestone is within the top 10% most deprived areas of Kent, the South East and the whole country.
The organisation also runs event ‘Inspiring Women’, for example in Business & Enterprise at the London Stock Exchange. 125 state school girls had the opportunity to participate in a ‘career speed networking’ event with high profile women in business and enterprise and had the rare opportunity to participate in the iconic market opening. This is seen important, as the achievements of women in business is not always sufficiently acknowledged and celebrated. Research also shows that young women at school have little idea about the career options open to them and what the huge array of job titles and roles really entail and how to get these jobs. The London Stock Exchange event was hosted by Xavier Rolet, CEO, London Stock Exchange Group and Air Vice-Marshal Elaine West CBE, Trustee and Ambassador of the Inspiring Women Campaign.
The eye-opening #RedrawTheBalance video was produced pro bono by Mullen Lowe. It can be shared on social media. The charity can be found online and at the tweets @Edu_Employers and @PrimaryFutures