By Joan Runnheim Olson
I have talked about it before - socialization plays a big role in gender stereotyping and ultimately career decision-making. From an early age, girls are dressed in pink, boys in blue. Girls are given dolls to play with and boys, trucks. Around the home, girls are typically given the tasks of washing the dishes and cleaning the house, while boys mow the lawn and change oil in the car.
Traditional gender roles often carry over into school where females are encouraged to take classes that prepare them for female-dominated careers and males for male-dominated careers. In the United States, there are many initiatives to encourage females and males to consider non-traditional careers. Many secondary and post-secondary schools receive Perkins grant funding to increase enrollment in classes/programs that prepare students for these male or female-dominated careers.
I present workshops across the country providing strategies on how to increase enrollment and retention in these classes and programs.
So, what's happening elsewhere? The already progressive Sweden has taken a radical step and opened a tax-payer funded preschool for kids aged 1 to 6. The Egalia preschool was designed to engineer equality between the sexes from childhood on. Opened in 2010 in Stockholm, the core mission in the national curriculum is breaking down gender roles.
Great care is taken to ensure children don’t fall into gender stereotypes. The staff addresses the kids as friends rather than girls and boys. Fostering an environment tolerant of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, the classic fairy tale books are non-existent at the preschool. Toys that are traditionally played with by girls or boys are placed next to each other.
Egalia isn’t without its opponents. Some consider the school highly controversial and propose that some of their tactics are tantamount to mind control. What are your thoughts on Egalia?