We are often asked what difference the colours make. Surely pink and blue don’t matter, that children can choose what they want to do regardless of stereotypes. We’re also told repeatedly by parents that despite not buying into gender stereotypes their children seem to conform to them.
The world is full of stereotypes and children are very adept at picking these up in order to understand the world. Humans, by nature, are social beings. We de-code the world and what is around us every day. For babies and children this is a constant state of learning. Picking up the social codes of the world. And although it is easy to think that children don’t pick up on these, they do – we wrote more about this here.
Data can be overwhelming
We know that the data and studies can be overwhelming. That there is a lot to read so we decided to work with Mitra Abrahams – a data visualiser – in order to demonstrate what we so often talk about.
We dug into the data and the studies finding some really worrying effects of stereotypes; “before the age of two, children are conscious of the social relevance of gender.” Which is younger than a lot of people think it would. And “at age 7, children’s career aspirations appear to be shaped and restricted by gender-specific ideas about certain jobs.” 
Mitra developed a fantastic visual of the brain going through life. Showing that there are influences everywhere, from colours, to language and clothing that all teach children what is ‘expected’ of them.
You can find the full deck here.
The brain can un-learn these stereotypes.
There is good news though, we can change this. The brain is malleable, can un-learn these stereotypes and remove the limitations that are placed on each individual.
As Gina Rippon says in her book ‘The Gendered Brain’:
“We now know that, even in adulthood, our brains are continually being changed, not just by the education we receive, but also by the jobs that we do, the hobbies we have, the sports we play. The brain of a working London taxi driver will be different from that of a trainee and from that of a retired taxi driver.”
The brain is ever learning, so let’s ensure that children are no longer taught the limiting gender stereotypes that they currently are.
A good way to do that is to have information around your children that can help challenge these stereotypes; we’ve got some fantastic stereotype busting books like ‘My Mummy is ….’, ‘My Daddy is …’ series and lovely dolls for all genders.
You can see the full deck of the studies and visualisation here
(1) Kane, E. W. (2006). “No Way My Boys Are Going to Be Like That!”: Parents’ Responses to Children’s Gender Nonconformity. Gender & Society, 20(2), 149–176.
(2) Chambers, N., et al., (2018). Drawing the Future survey. Education for Employers.