As a teacher, you are in a position to call out examples of gender stereotyping and encourage students to question and dispute them.

While we’re all exposed to gender stereotypes, young people are particularly susceptible to them when forming an understanding of their place in society and their potential. The classroom is an ideal environment to raise their awareness of these stereotypes and encourage critical analysis in students so they’re equipped to come to their own informed conclusions.

Inspiring young people to question gender stereotypes enables them to make informed choices about their futures and broaden their opportunities. As a teacher, you are in a position to call out examples of gender stereotyping and encourage students to question and dispute them. This might be through highlighting examples in teaching materials or through calling out students’ comments and behaviour.

Although you might not be making decisions about what texts and materials are on the syllabus, you do have the opportunity to ask students to question gendered examples within those materials. Suggest students consider the types of texts that are authored by women versus men, to analyse the roles men versus women fill in texts’ examples or fictional characters. Maths or sociology classes can provide an opportunity to look at Australian statistics in areas such as gender pay gaps, or gender-bias in careers and employment.

If you hear sexist comments from students, such as “you kick like a girl”, "man up" or “get back in the kitchen” it’s important to discuss what these phrases mean and their consequences. Many students will use this language without intending to insult, so it’s important to prompt them to think about the underlying message and the impact their comments have, as opposed to simply reprimanding or ‘banning’ such talk.

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

  • Challenge traditional male and female stereotypes when giving examples to students, e.g. ‘a female soldier’ or ‘a male nurse’.
  • When you do see/hear examples of gender stereotypes use them as an opportunity for ‘teachable moments’ and ask students 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 your students to do, e.g. ask female students to carry sports equipment
  • Consider the way you interact with students and avoid being, for example, ‘blokey’ with boys or ‘gentle’ with girls. Instead, interact in the way you’d expect them to in the real world.
  • Actively encourage students to engage in activities that might sit outside their gender’s comfort-zones (e.g. sports, dance, drama etc.) 
  • 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 inequity
  • Encourage mixed gender group work and seating arrangements
  • Use examples of gender inequity to inform your lesson, e.g. looking at statistics on the gender pay gap for a maths lesson, or looking at examples of inequity throughout history and how things may or may not have changed
  • Actively discuss and analyse sexist advertising images and the media’s representation of men and women.
  • Without highlighting that they’re not ‘acting likes blokes/girls’, actively encourage students when they do challenge gender roles.

Use examples of sexism or rigid gender roles currently in the media, news stories, advertising, television or film as prompts for discussion. Ask students for their own experiences with gender stereotypes, and give them our articles on gender for young people to initiate further discussion.

For more information have a look at our other articles on gender for educators. For lesson plan ideas and information on gender and respectful relationships please refer to Unit One: Gender, Respect and Relationships of the Building Respectful Relationships, Stepping Out Against Gender Based Violence resource by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.