By Joan Runnheim Olson
Gender stereotypes are ingrained in children from an early age and continues throughout their lives. What can teachers and others do to help challenge those stereotypes? Creating lesson plans that "test" females and males assumptions can help. Below I share some ideas on lesson plans or exercises you can use as discussion points.
1) Show clips from TV shows and commercials depicting females and males in "traditional" gender roles, e.g., women taking on the primary role as childcare provider and housekeeper and men doing lawn care and as the primary "breadwinner." Ask students to discuss how they feel about those "assigned" roles and encourage them to explore how things have changed over the years in regard to those roles. For example, more dads are staying at home to raise their children, and some women earn more than their husbands.
2) Ask students to brainstorm a list of careers and of those careers which ones they think are "appropriate" for females vs. males. Be prepared to share information that conveys that most careers are appropriate for either gender. For example, the strength requirements for many jobs traditionally held by men are often exaggerated. Tools, equipment, and proper handling make most jobs accessible to both males and females.
3) Ask students to participate in an exercise where they jot down what they like best about being their gender and what they would like about being the opposite gender. Encourage them to share what they wrote and discuss any stereotypes and how they might impact an individual's career choice.
Breaking stereotypes doesn't happen overnight; however, if we challenge them they lose their power. Because stereotypes can greatly impact an individual's career choice, it's important that we don't allow them to prevent a student from considering all of their career options.