Back Of The Class

Gender attitudes in schools have not changed since the 1960s and girls are still far more likely to be encouraged to do hairdressing, catering and childcare courses, while boys go on to do mechanics and plumbing, according to the equalities watchdog. The women’s rights movement has encouraged women to compete harder and they are now more likely to go to university, get good degrees and become doctors. But girls from working-class backgrounds have been left behind, according to the research, published today by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

 Trevor Phillips, the chair of the commission, said attitudes in some schools were stuck in the mid-20th century. The research, based on interviews with 1,000 14- to 18-year-olds, found white working-class girls were four times as likely as white middle-class girls to work in childcare. Phillips said: “The majority of young women who come from working-class backgrounds believe they will fail. They believe the best they can do is to be a hairdresser or work in one of the three Cs: catering, childcare or cleaning. These are proper careers and I don’t want to do them down. The problem is we have a society where young girls who aren’t from well-off professional families can’t see themselves as successful in anything but a limited range of jobs.

 “Within education and careers services, the expectations for these girls are pretty low. Even well-meaning teachers and careers advisers are saying … ‘you could be a very good hairdresser’. They should be saying, ‘why don’t you want to be a doctor or lawyer?’ It’s wrong if girls are told they can only do certain things.” The research found that four times as many boys as girls believed they would go into engineering, with similar percentages of boys over girls choosing building, architecture, trade and IT careers. There were also strong class differentials for boys. White middle-class boys were twice as likely as white working-class boys to become a teacher or police officer.

7 Responses to “Back Of The Class”

  1. earwicga Says:

    Or perhaps these working-class girls are more savy than the Guardian or Commission are able to see and that the careers they chose are likely to keep them in employment and be jobs that can be held down with the usual other family responsibilities that working-class women also undertake. Perhaps they see that life is more enjoyable working alongside other women similar to them and not spending their working lives fighting the system and men. I do find the strong class differentials for boys becoming teachers or police officers quite disturbing though.

  2. harpymarx Says:

    Glad you posted about this Rick, important and pertinent esp. during this current recession and the knock-on effects it will have.

    earwicga, It is not about fighting the system, it is about equal access and being treated equally with men. And because of the unequal world we live, power relationships exist between men and women, (intersection of race and class as well) that has to be highlighted and challenged. Under a patriarchal capitalist society there exists traditional gender roles and norms that women are expected to fill, there are also contradictions in the way women are expected to behave. It is about not having constraints or expectations placed upon you which women do. And that girls/women are conditioned, esp. from working class backgrounds to be told what is expected of you. I was to a certain extent (more by my parents not so much in school but the political situation was different then) but I rallied against it mainly cos I was involved in leftie politics from 14 onwards.

    I think another reason why these stark gender roles exist at the moment, and the emphasis placed on them is the low level class struggle. When working class militancy is high along with a strong labour movement then political consciousness is raised. The liberation movements of the 70s and 80s brought these issues to the forefront. That level of political activity is weak, the left is weak and instead of militancy we have more mass apathy.

    The problem with some of the jobs these girls are going for disappear in times of recession, esp. the catering industry, retail etc hence more likely to lose their jobs in the current recession, which women are (more part-time, low paid…36% gender gap in p/t employment) and also to be experiencing an economic disadvantage to men. And of course, we still have a pay gap.

    Frankly, I find the whole of the research disturbing regarding race, class and gender.

    • earwicga Says:

      harpymarx – I am well aware what the article and research is about, but thanks for spelling it out 🙂 I have been there and done that and it is way too exhausting and stressful. I just think these girls are smarter than to bother with stressing out their lives and wasting time ‘rallie’ing against it all. Life is too short for all that shit – so we earn less, so what if then we are well and able to enjoy what we have!

  3. harpymarx Says:

    Well, fair enough earwicga but I think we can’t give up the struggle for equality and a better life for all. And poverty pay and lack of choices doesn’t lead to a happy life automatically. I just think, from my own point of view, is that we have to fight for rights and a better life for all. Well, that’s just me and I will continue ‘rallie’ing’ against oppression and discrimination in this society as if we do nothing then nothing changes… it seem like nothing does but every bit of activism and struggle does count.

    But again, that’s just me, the eternal TU anti-imperialist socialist feminist activist. To quote Rosa Luxemburg, ‘I was, I am, I shall be’….

    • earwicga Says:

      Good, I shall support you all the way. Poverty pay doesn’t necessarily mean an unhappy life either. Btw, hairdressing and the three c’s do not necessarily mean poverty pay either and the scope for fulfilment and self-employment are there for all of them. I find the report and the Commission patronising and narrow – it is shows basic laziness in assuming the people they are talking about lead such flat lives.

  4. libhomo Says:

    A lot more needs to be done to counter gender conformity and conformity in general.

  5. earwicga Says:

    Mmm, pants to conformity!!!

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