Gender stereotypes may be putting children off a healthcare career

Primary school children are more likely to identify a woman as a nurse and a man as a surgeon, according to new research.
Gender stereotypes

Primary school children are more likely to identify a woman as a nurse and a man as a surgeon, according to new research

Gender stereotypes
Picture: iStock

Health Careers – the career information arm of Health Education England – surveyed 700 children aged 7-11 to find out how stereotyped the views of young people are.

When shown a photo of a man and woman and asked to identify the nurse, seven out of ten children picked the image of the woman.

When asked to identify the surgeon, 72% of boys and 80% of girls picked the man.

'Girls might get distracted'

Asked why she had chosen the man, one eight-year-old girl said: ‘Men are more focused, girls are all over the place, they might get distracted.’

In total 80% of the NHS workforce is female, with nursing forming its largest professional group.

Health Careers says people should be concerned at the results, as they suggest the reason for this could be down to early gender stereotypes influencing career considerations later in life.

Writing in his blog, Health Careers strategy and communications lead Darren Aldrich said: ‘Some might argue that the most important thing is having a workforce in sufficient numbers with the right values and skills.

‘But we also want a workforce that reflects the communities it serves.’

Social responsibility

He added: ‘We also have a social responsibility to make sure that young people are not discounting a career because of a misconception.

‘Do we really want a ten-year-old boy not considering nursing because "it is a caring profession, and women are better at caring"?’

Mr Aldrich urged nurses and other professionals working in health and social care to get involved in programmes bringing employers and schools together, such as Primary Futures and Inspiring Women.

He also called for the creation of more ‘high-profile’ role models who can help challenge gender stereotypes.

Perceptions of health careers in primary schools is published by Health Education England and Kids Connections.

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