Mr Banks - the real hero of Mary Poppins - was a banker in the City of London

Mr Banks – the real hero of Mary Poppins – was a banker in the City of London

A study, conducted by global recruitment company PageGroup, has revealed that young children in the UK hold gender-stereotyped views when it comes to specific job roles.

The study, which asked for drawings from over one hundred children aged 7-11, reinforced the reality of gender stereotyping when it comes to professions. The children were asked to draw a nurse, a builder, a lawyer and a banker, and also the job they aspire to when they grow up. Where gender was identifiable, the drawings showed a clear gender skew for specific roles:

  • 81 percent of children drew nurses as female
  • 88 percent of children drew builders as male
  • 80 percent of children drew bankers as male
  • the most gender balanced of the professions, 65 percent of children drew lawyers as male

These findings come despite the ongoing efforts of the professional world to address the lack of diversity in historically male-or-female-dominated roles and create a more balanced workforce. The findings show a generation that is growing-up in a forward-thinking world, but is clearly inheriting outdated gender stereotypes.

Dr. Richard Woolfson, child psychologist and author on child development, said: “The psychological danger of stereotypes like this during childhood is that children’s future career ambitions and employment aspirations can be unnecessarily limited by their own rigid job-gender perceptions and expectations, irrespective of their actual ability, and that children might fail to even consider job possibilities associated with the opposite gender.

“To avoid this pitfall, parents should get to know their children’s views about job-gender and then try to broaden their perspective so that they avoid setting artificial employment boundaries for themselves. Children will only fulfil their maximum employment potential in post-school life if they make a career choice that is suited to their talents, interests and abilities, not one that is needlessly restricted by job-gender stereotypes.”

The findings are supported by the recent ‘#RedrawTheBalance’ advert launched by the charity Education and Employers, which raises awareness of the work that needs to be done to tackle gender stereotyping at a young age.

Aspirations defined by gender

The study also illustrated some interesting gender trends in children’s job aspirations. Girls’ drawings generally showed a focus on helping others (teachers, nurses, and vets) and entertainment (musicians, artists, and pop stars). Comparably, boys’ drawings frequently depicted aspirations of sports-dominated roles (footballers, rally drivers, and rugby players) and careers where they could exercise authority in society (such as firemen and head teachers).

Amongst the more unusual job choices for the girls were Oscar-winning actress, astronaut, game designer and singer (on YouTube). Meanwhile the boys picked, taxi driver, YouTuber and zoo keeper.

Girls Boys
Teacher Footballer
Vet Policeman
Scientist Scientist
Designer Computer designer
Dancer Explorer
Nurse Fireman
Hairdresser Paleontologist
Gymnast Pilot
Baker Race car driver/rally car driver
Beautician/make-up artist Rugby player





Robert joined the HRreview editorial team in October 2015. After graduating from the University of Salford in 2009 with a BA in Politics, Robert has spent several years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past he has been part of editorial teams at Flux Magazine, Mondo*Arc Magazine and The Marine Professional.