Young people channelled into gender-specific career choices

‘Occupational stereotyping’ is still forcing people into career choices traditionally associated with their gender, despite many young people aspiring to different roles and higher salaries.

An investigation by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) found that young people, especially girls from poorer backgrounds, are being channelled into jobs traditionally associated with their sex, such as care work.

The report, Free to Choose, claimed that girls from this section of society were being denied competent careers advice, and blamed the problem on a lack of work experience placements and a shortage of training opportunities.

It also uncovered a real desire for change, with 80% of young girls reporting an interest in taking up a role not traditionally associated with women, and three-quarters hoping to try a traditionally male role before making a final decision.

The aspirations of young people entering the workplace does not match the reality, with one in four boys expressing an interest in care work, and one in eight girls attracted to construction.

However, figures show that among apprentices, just 1% of construction workers are women and 2% of carers men.

EOC chair Julie Mellor called on the government to remove some of the barriers around occupational segregation by improving careers advice and elevating the issue to the heart of its skills agenda.

“Girls from lower socio-economic groups often end up in lower paid work than boys, despite doing well at school. Opportunities for some boys to take up the work that suits them are also being blocked. Britain can’t go on letting young people down,” she said.

Secretary of state for education and skills, Ruth Kelly, urged employers to look beyond traditional gender stereotypes to help beat chronic skills shortages.

She said that some of the worst affected sectors were those traditionally associated with a particular gender, such as construction – where the workforce is 99% male and accounts for 6% of all skill shortage vacancies.

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