Career Lesson Series Part III – Career Gender Stereotyping

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Career Lesson Series Part I: Job Portraits

Career Lesson Series Part II: Personality and Career Choice

I’m going to start off by saying that this is my favorite career lesson that I implement with my students, and my 6th graders seem to take a lot away from it in regards to career gender stereotyping. Although we’ve made a lot of progress as a society, gender stereotypes still influence career decisions, and this lesson makes that real for students.

Once we’ve finished our initial “what is a career” discussion, I pass out a worksheet.

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Students are instructed to write the career described in each box, draw a picture of someone who would have that career, and give that person a name. To the students, they were being tested on recognizing careers, but really they were about to demonstrate career gender stereotyping.

The careers on the worksheet are ones that are categorized by many as “jobs for men” or “jobs for women,” like mechanic, nurse, teacher, firefighter, and fashion designer. I let the students share what they came up with for each description, then for each career they raise their hands according to what gender they assign to the workers they drew. {i.e. “Raise your hand if the nurse you drew was a woman.” Literally every single hand went up.}

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After doing this a few times, the students realized what they had done, and some even looked horrified that they — the liberal, forward-thinking middle schoolers they are — had used gender stereotypes on their worksheets without thinking.

If these students were asked in everyday life, “Is a doctor a job for a man or a woman?,” they would in an instant say, “It’s a job for either! Men and women can be anything they want!” Yet, the career gender stereotypes that have been around ever since women have been in the workforce still permeate their minds unconsciously.

The “Ah-ha” moment of this lesson was spectacular to watch. Hopefully it helped at least one student not limit career choices based on his or her gender.

Only 2 more parts of this career series! Click here to check out Part IV: Career Research (a 7th Grade Lesson).


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