Hair, Beauty and Child Care: Gender and Careers Education for Girls

Whilst working in youth projects over the past decade or so, I have often noticed the predominance of highly gendered career guidance for young people. Too often, when discussing what career options girls were considering, the ‘holy trinity’ of beauty, hair and child care cropped up repeatedly in young women’s visions for their future and their Year 10 work placements. Such options were further cemented in areas such as ‘alternative’ education provision, or vocationally orientated training aimed at ‘NEETS’ (Not in Education, Employment and Training), that seemed to guide working class, young women into courses and apprenticeships in beauty or child care, and their brothers into motor mechanics and bricklaying.

I was therefore not surprised by Ofsted’s latest report critiquing the narrow gender stereotypes that impact on young women’s work placements, choices of school subjects and vocational courses, and future careers prospects. The small scale survey, Girls’ Career Aspirations,  examined  the choices of courses and careers made by girls and young women at various stages in their education and training. It found that that girls were often receiving weak careers education, which is making it difficult for them to make properly informed choices about courses and careers. The survey suggested that whilst girls knew much about equality of opportunity they still chose gender stereotypical careers- and were unaware of the impact such choices may have on future career paths, pay and prospects.

This report also comes at a bleak time for youth employment and youth careers support services in the UK. The recent demise of Connexions in England, and the wave of severe cuts to youth services, again closes down other sites of career support and work guidance where young people might be able to explore alternative  gendered career options. The question therefore is how young people are supported in considering their present education and future career choices, and the quality of careers education within and outside school settings. As always, we would be interested in your viewpoints on this issue.

(Fin Cullen, GEA Executive)


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