We’ve come a long way in recognising the equality of the sexes. Women are no longer always assumed to be the obvious stay-at-home parent, the better nurturer or the smarter shopper.
Men are no longer expected to be the breadwinner, the pursuer or the brave protector.
Yet while we all agree that both genders are equally capable, we still subconsciously hold onto some old-fashioned perceptions.
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This was brought home to me with a striking realisation when I attended a management conference a few years ago. There were about thirty or forty people in the room and the presenter asked us all to draw a simple picture of a scientist. He then asked us to raise our hands if we had drawn the scientist as a man in a lab coat holding a test-tube. All but two people raised their hands and the other two admitted that they had an idea what this was leading up to and so had deliberately drawn women.
When we conjure up the image of a ballet dancer we picture a girl in a tutu, right? The thought of a soldier brings to mind a man, yes?
Since when does a make-up artist or dressmaker have to be female, or a plumber have to be male?
Yet we have to admit that when we think of these professions that’s what we see.
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How many of us still expect a man to do our maintenance jobs, or a woman to babysit our children? Why does the man cook the barbecue and the woman make the salad?
How long will it take for some of us to realise that men can be as gentle and nurturing with other people’s children as women can. My son’s kindergarten teacher was a man, much to the concern of several of the mums, yet he was one of the most patient and trusted teachers in the school.
I once ran a learning assistance program at the same school, enlisting volunteers to work one-to-one with children with special needs. The sessions were conducted in a small room until a male volunteer signed up and then it was decided that we needed to move into a busier area and work in pairs. This had never been considered when all of the volunteers were female.
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I’m sure that with time and the progression of future generations our perceptions will change - but it can start with us. We can begin to broaden our thinking when it comes to gender roles and capabilities.
I've no idea why these 'images' persist.
Look at what women did during WWII.
Unbelievable some of the jobs they very capably fulfilled, & 99% beforehand were just 'housewives', & some poorly educated, if at all!
Females have such a long way to go, & IMHO, whilst males rule practically everything, women will NEVER get 'there'.
In this day & age, look at the inequality of wages in many jobs, & poor Superannuation contributions for women, as just two cases in point.
This is certainly a thought-provoking article. It's easy to assume the usual thing, that's true. And while we have had a female Prime Minister in Australia, there were huge sexism issues with it for many, particularly the media.