UK schools subject divide among genders still an issue, finds report

The gender divide remains in schools, a report has claimed, with boys aged seven to 15 favouring maths and science subjects, while their female counterparts opt for arts and humanities.

Survey finds plumbing is for boys, art is for girls, as many influenced by home. Pic: Lisa Ferguson

Meanwhile, 44 per cent of youngsters the same age say they believe jobs such as plumber or builder are “just for boys”, while their mothers admit they take on the vast majority of household chores at home. The study, by market research specialists Mintel, comes just weeks after the broadcast of a controversial BBC documentary, No More Boys and Girls, which removed all traces of gender divide from a classroom of seven-year-olds to monitor the effect it had on the children’s self esteem and faith in their abilities.

It found self esteem scores in girls, who believed they were less able than boys at the beginning of the experiment, were far higher by the end.

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Jack Duckett, senior consumer lifestyles analyst at Mintel, said: “While the UK has taken huge steps in terms of equality over the last 50 years, gender stereotypes remain apparent among today’s children and teens, as shown by their continued belief that certain subjects and professions are more suited to one gender or the other.

“As gender equality becomes an increasingly pressing issue for businesses and society alike, there are opportunities for brands to create campaigns that openly challenge these stereotypes at a young age, helping to drive further improvements in gender equality for the future.”

The Mintel report found that when asked which three subjects they most enjoy at school, almost half of boys say that IT or computing is among their favourite subjects, followed by 47 per cent who favour sport and 41 per cent who like maths. For girls, however, 43 per cent say that art is one of their favourite subjects on the timetable, followed by English and music.

In comparison, while IT tops the list for boys, just over a quarter of girls say this is one of their top three favourite subjects, while a slim 29 per cent of girls favour maths and 30 per cent sport. Meanwhile, although art is the favourite subject for girls, just one in five boys say this is one of their favourites with just 16 per cent enjoying English and 13 per cent music.

However, being a doctor is equally likely to be associated with being “for boys” as it is “for girls”.

The study found that while two in three parents with girls aged between seven to 15 are confident in their daughter baking without any adult help or supervision, this sinks to just 46 per cent of parents of boys. Meanwhile, some 44 per cent of parents say that they would be confident with their daughter’s ability to cook a meal without supervision, but this falls to just 37 per cent of those with sons.

Mr Ducket added: “Overall, parents are less confident in their sons’ ability to carry out domestic tasks, such as cooking, baking and doing the laundry without help, compared to their daughters’.

“This arguably underpins a gender gap in household chores that continues to be prevalent across UK homes. There has been much discussion around how the confidence gap between genders is preventing some women from achieving all they can in the workplace. But it could also be argued that the inverse trend is undermining increased participation by men in the home.”