THE BLOG

Breaking Through the Gender Barrier

10/03/2014 14:27 GMT | Updated 06/05/2014 10:59 BST

Boys wear blue, girls wear pink. Men fix the cars, women cook the meals. Men are engineers and women are teachers.

It's hard to believe that some of these notions still exist in the 21st century. Yet new research from the City & Guilds Group shows that male and female students receive vastly different careers advice, often correlating with outdated gender stereotypes.

We asked more than 2000 young professionals (18-34 year olds) what careers they were encouraged to pursue while at school. We found that men were most often told to consider IT (26%) and engineering (18%), whilst women were directed towards nursing (17%) and teaching (16%).

With so many industries in desperate need of skilled workers, we cannot afford for these gender stereotypes to persist in today's economy.

Take the care sector for example. Women currently make up 80% of the workforce, according to The International Longevity Centre. They predict that the UK will need one million more workers in the sector by 2025. If those slots aren't filled, it could have huge repercussions for care provision. More men working in the industry would be a huge help, but it just isn't viewed as a 'manly' profession.

On the flip side, take 24 year-old Katharine Palmer. Katharine is currently working towards an Advanced Civil Engineering apprenticeship with TfL and loving it. But a lot of people have expressed their surprise at a young woman working in a male-dominated field, even though she's doing the exact same job as her colleagues.

This situation is hardly shocking though as our research found that only 4% of women are encouraged to pursue engineering, versus 18% of men.

Katharine hopes this will change in the future. She said, 'Eventually more and more women will join the field and it will become unremarkable.'

But for this to happen, students need careers advice that is tied to their interests, talents and potential, not their gender. Which leads me to question whose responsibility it is to give young people the unbiased advice they need to make informed decisions about their futures?