Why I Care About The Gender Gap

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Hollie Anderton

Hollie is currently an English teacher and Head of Year in North Wales with a degree in Theatre. She trained in Bath Spa University to gain her PGCE and is currently a Network Leader for WomenEd Wales Hollie is the author of the Teacher Toolkit...
Read more about Hollie Anderton

Are we limiting our children with gender stereotyping?

The gender gap is something that is still ever-present in our society. For centuries, there has been differences between genders and many people will argue that this is just ‘one-of-those-things’. It’s time to abolish that argument.

Why I wrote the book?

Hairdresser or FootballerI have written a book called Hairdresser or Footballer: Bridging the Gender Gap In Schools with the aim of helping to do just that. I began to see the way that different genders were treated in schools very early on in my career.

I found myself questioning why school data had columns for gender, wondering how that would help teachers to analyse test results and progress.

I heard colleagues talking about how they could inspire boys in writing. I heard parents explaining that their child’s behaviour was excusable because ‘boys will be boys’. I got to thinking about just how unjust our view on genders is.

This is why I wrote the book, Hairdresser or Footballer. I wanted to explore the role of gender in the development of our children.

What do they see when they look in the mirror? Do they see themselves as strange for wanting to do something that is not ‘normal’ for their gender? Without even thinking about it, we are still labelling our children from a very young age. These labels move up with the children and they ensure that, for most, the status quo of gender rules still apply.

The misconceptions

What I think many of us misinterpret, is what gender actually is. Many believe that gender is the sex that you were assigned at birth. It’s not. Gender is a social construct that has been built by society to ensure consistency between behaviours of two sexes, male and female. Throughout history, there have been expectations of how genders should behave. Ladies should be seen to be a good wife, gentlemen should be working to provide for the family. Whilst these views are archaic to many of us, we still find ourselves bound somewhat by rules dictated by people who lived in a different time, a different culture.

I see children in my class who are uninhibited by their gender, it’s not a burden to them. They know that they can do whatever they like when they grow up. I see other children however, that have really strong judgements on those who don’t conform to society’s ideal. It is through this that we find ourselves back in a cycle that consolidates the fact that we have to adhere to what society dictates as the ordinary, and that those who break the cycle are seen as disruptive and abnormal. This is a message that we are subconsciously delivering to our children every day.

Why I think that the book is needed

I’m not trying to claim that every teacher has a gender bias or predisposed ideas towards gender. The issue lies in the fact that all around them, every day, our children are faced with ideals. From toys to social media to school, our children are watching how gender divides are still present and in turn, this gives them confirmation that it is only okay to behave in a way that is seen to everyone else as normal.

The book is split into four sections that all look at different aspects of the gender gap: History, Academic Differences, Aspirational Differences and Social Pressures. Each of these sections explores how we are still limiting the achievements of our children after repeating the mistakes made by our ancestors. The book is not a manual of dos and don’ts. The book provides us with food for thought. Filled with interviews from professionals and pupils themselves, the book provides a toolkit for teachers to use in their classroom to ensure that the gender columns on data will be deleted.

Why should you read the book?

The gender gap is a living and breathing movement that needs to be addressed in our classrooms. Ask yourself this: are we truly doing enough for our children by confirming to them that they are only really capable of some things because of the gender that they associate with? The answer is no. It’s time to make a change.

Hairdresser or Footballer: Bridging the Gender Gap In Schools is available to pre-order and will be published at the end of October.

2 thoughts on “Why I Care About The Gender Gap

  1. A really important debate. In my school our boys do not do as well as girls expect in science. My head asked me why boys books were not as neat as girls. We are always asking why girls do not choose physics A level.

    It all seems related but so hard to separate fact from prejudice. I have read


    and related papers which say there is no difference between the male and female brain. Yet data shows big differences.
    What is going on?

    1. It’s a really interesting point and such an important question. I’m no expert, so this is a guess – I’m sure medically speaking, the brain is technically the same organ as everyone else, but how it forms throughout our life and how it develops through narrative, drugs, memory, challenge, gender, tiredness etc ect leads the brain to operate in different ways… a muscle so to speak that is moulded and trained – or not fulfilling it’s true potential due to lack of ability (training) to develop empathy, or being destroyed through alcohol and drug abuse. Equally, each subject has its own domain knowledge (to be taught) can also be delivered in many different ways. For example, what a teacher transmits to XYZ student, will also be interpreted in countless ways based on the processes developed by the individual and how their brain has been shaped over time. I have no idea if that makes sense, or indeed, answers your question – not that I had any belief that I could, but at least I’ve had a go at answering what are important questions that I do think we all struggle to find answers for. I think it is an impossible ask to be able to measure why boys do this and girls do that is various subjects… and although analysing data to every tenth degree is helpful for interventions, it may also lead us (teachers, parents, whoever…) to form stereotypes or a glass ceiling of a child’s potential.

      Here’s a quick trail of our bias. Think of a doctor… or a lorry driver. Or a nurse or a rally car driver.

      Now, think of what gender association you have attached to each job role. This may or may not have happened in your thought process, but if it has, then there’s a clear narrative and generation of dialogue we all need to change. And if this doesn’t start at home, then it must start in the classroom.

      Anyway, I’m waffling.

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