Challenging gender stereotypes

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Inspiring young people to question gender stereotypes enables them to make informed choices about their futures and broaden their opportunities.

While we’re all exposed to gender stereotypes, young people are particularly susceptible to them when forming an understanding of their place and their potential in society. Raising awareness of gender stereotypes and encouraging critical analysis enables young people to come to their own informed conclusions.

As a practitioner or educator, you are in a position to call out examples of gender stereotypes and encourage students to question and reflect on them. This might be through highlighting examples in everyday life or through calling out young peoples’ comments and behaviour in a respectful way, avoiding shame or blame.

What can I do to promote gender equality and challenge stereotypes?

  • Challenge traditional male and female stereotypes when talking to young people, e.g. ‘a female soldier’ or ‘a male nurse’.
  • When you see/hear examples of gender stereotypes, use them as an opportunity for ‘teachable moments’ and ask young people to discuss what they mean and why they use them.
  • Aim to use gender neutral language (e.g. it, their, they).
  • Avoid statements that generalise, ‘girls tend to...' or 'boys are more...’
  • Don’t limit what you ask young people to do, e.g. ask young women to carry sports equipment.
  • Consider the way you interact with young people and avoid being, for example, ‘blokey’ with boys or ‘gentle’ with girls. Instead, interact with girls and boys in the same ways.
  • Actively encourage young people to engage in activities that might sit outside their gender’s stereotypical comfort zones (e.g. sports, dance, drama).
  • Take note of how often you draw on either males or females to answer different types of questions and make an effort to rectify any inequality.
  • Encourage mixed gender group work and seating arrangements.
  • Actively discuss and analyse sexist advertising images and the media’s representation of men and women.
  • Actively encourage young people when they do challenge gender roles.

Further resources

For a range of resources about promoting gender equality, see the Our Watch respectful relationships education website .

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