Sunday, 17 April 2011

How Schools can help promote ‘Girls’ career aspirations’

Earlier this week Ofsted published a report called ‘Girls’ career aspirations’, which found that some girls are receiving weak careers education, which is making it difficult for them to make properly informed choices about courses and careers.

The report is based on findings from visits to 16 primary schools, 25 secondary schools, including 13 single-sex girls’ schools, and with female learners from 10 colleges. Ofsted Inspectors also contacted 36 businesses linked to 12 schools.

In most of the schools visited, not enough was being done to promote the confidence, drive and ambition of girls to take risks in challenging vocational stereotypes. Through discussions, inspectors found that girls aged 11 to 14 years had limited knowledge and understanding of how choices about courses and careers influenced pay and progression.

A narrow range of gender-stereotypical work placements dominated choices in almost all the schools visited. Of the 1,725 examples of work placements for young women collected from school records, only 164 represented non-stereotypical experiences.

The girls from the schools visited predominantly held stereotypical views about jobs for men and women, despite knowing they can choose any career and being taught about equal opportunities. For girls of all ages, the decision about what they would like to do when they finished school was most heavily influenced by friends and families.

Many of the girls thought there could be discrimination if they worked in a male dominated occupation, and suggested they would like to visit a workplace and see a woman doing the job successfully before choosing it for themselves.

Ofsted Press Release

Ofsted Report

Heather Heaton from 'today starts NOW' has agreed to guest blog on this subject below:

We know that through various research papers that young women tend to choose their 'first career' in one of five areas - childcare, hair, beauty, admin or retail.

I worked in the Careers Service for 7 years before starting Today Starts NOW, so I know a thing or two about careers!

Before that I was a nonconformist girl! Let me explain.

I was brought up by my mother who joined the army when I was four, it was the army life for us!

We moved around quite a bit when I was growing up, surrounded by soldiers, by men - all very positive role models.

I often heard the tales of what men were saying, and me, being me, thought I would change the world, and change the way in which women where dealt with in the world we live in, and in the Army.

I was the first girl in my school to do GCSE PE, and the only girl, so my fight had started early.

What I have realised since then, is that my role models were not hairdressers, nor beauticians, nor administrators - they were soldiers who made life an amazing adventure.

It carries through to now, I can't sit still, I have to plan my next great adventure straight after the next one. My children can't wait to go back to school after the holidays because they get to have a rest, mummy has had them up a mountain or two. Oh, I also rearrange the furniture every 18 months to give myself the impression that I've moved house. I'd be a nightmare to live with if you were blind!

Role models are everything. When we work with young ladies, we quiz them on who they live with, what do they do, what does your aunty do...quite often you get the traditional roles coming through - and this is where young ladies will take their guidance from. Although many mothers might disagree, girls listen to their mothers, more than what they let on.

In certain areas of Liverpool, multigenerational unemployment is a huge problem. The amount of money put in to remedy this is astronomical. Why - because if mum nor dad, don't go out to work why should junior? Job roles and careers are just the same.

So, while we might have the issue of a stuffy old career officer asking/telling a girl what careers she might be suitable for, not only are you dealing with their preconceptions of what 'she' can achieve as a woman, you're dealing with the influences of her family.

As part of our programmes we bring in role models from every walk of life, at every step in any career. In one of our sessions we invite five female employers. They are dressed in casual clothes, no ID badges and no clues as to who they are, or what they might do. Time after time, girls are stumped by this session.

Do you answer a phone - Yes
Do you work in an office -Yes
Are you a receptionist - No
I run a very successful rugby club!

Do you work with children - Yes
Are they in school - No
Are you a nursery Nurse - No
I'm a child psychologist!

If we can show the young girls whats out there and let them meet the people who are doing these jobs - then, and only then will you really start to influence girls career aspirations!

Heather Heaton

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