Girls’ Career Aspirations
22 April 2011
A report by Ofsted
Despite the fact that girls tend to outperform boys academically at school, this does not relate to the success of women in the labour market in terms of either careers or pay. In particular, women are much less likely to work in science, engineering and technology sectors than men.
Between June 2009 and December 2010, small-scale surveys were undertaken at several points in girls’ education and training in 16 primary schools, 25 secondary schools and 10 further education colleges. Girls seemed to be heavily influenced by friends, family and conceptions of typically gender-stereotyped jobs. Although almost all girls and women surveyed showed an interest in challenging gender-stereotyped careers, the actual course and careers picked by the girls tended to reflect gender stereotypes.
Inspectors found good examples of ways in which the specialist status schools visited engaged with employers. In these cases, the schools used their specialist status to present broader career pathways to young women and to develop their knowledge, skills and attitudes.
The programmes of careers education and work-related learning, and the provision of information, advice and guidance in the schools visited, were not focused sufficiently on the knowledge, understanding and skills that girls and young women needed in order to deal with factors such as career breaks and the roles they might wish to play as future parents.
In addition, a narrow range of gender-stereotypical work placements dominated choices in
almost all schools.
For a few girls, career ambitions were changed through direct observation of a professional at work, through mentoring activities, and through personal encounters and extended discussion with a professional about what their job was actually like.