An article in the Guardian today makes gloomy if predictable reading. 'Girls believe brilliance is a male trait, research into gender stereotypes shows. Study highlights how children as young as six can be influenced by stereotypes such as the idea that brilliance or giftedness is more common in men.' The Guardian, Friday 27th January 2017.
To my mind this is the result of so many things. We need that growth mindset permeating teaching throughout our primary and secondary schools - 'I can work at this and improve'. 'It doesn't get easier, I just get better'. We all benefit from that positivity and work ethic.
And as parents we need to check our language, our prejudices and our expectations for our girls. Take away the boundaries and the limits and see how far your girl can go. If she thinks she can, if she hears she may, if she sees older role models showing the way, she just might.
Historically, we need to recognise the devastating legacy of the Matilda Effect where all the amazing women who have contributed to where we stand now, in so many diverse fields, have not been properly celebrated and promoted. Otherwise we will miss our next Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace, Helen Sharman, Ellen McArthur, Paula Radcliffe, Beth Tweddle, Jo Cox, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Zaha Hadid, Athene Donald, Temple Grandin, Helen Mirren, Judy Dench, JK Rowling, Helena Kennedy, Davina McColl, Adele, Tracy Emin, Wendy Cope, Elizabeth Blackwell, Mary Anning, Elizabeth Fry, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Carol Vorderman, Michelle Obama ... and we will only have ourselves to blame. All of society misses out when half of our population are not properly motivated, educated and supported.
“If we are to facilitate a gender-balanced workforce of engineers, mathematicians and physicists in the future it is clear interventions at secondary school just aren’t going to be sufficient. Parents, teachers and the media need to work much harder eradicating gender stereotypes in the way they talk about adults to children of all ages.” Dame Athene Donald, professor of experimental physics at the University of Cambridge.
For our part? At After Alice we think playtime is hugely important. It is where you start working out who you are, what you are good at, what you like to do, and what you might be. For a great selection of toys, games and pursuits that do not stereotype or restrict, please take a look at our site.