Teaching Children Gender Equality with @thehelsproject | International Women's Day
Gender equality is - in its simplest form - when people of all genders have equal rights.
In today's society, we recognise there is a distinction between biological and social definitions of gender. The two main biological genders are generally considered to be male and female (also known as gender binary).
However, there are a number of social definitions depending on how different individuals choose to identify themselves, and depending on the source, it ranges from 4 to over 100 different genders.
This International Women's Day on 8th March 2021, we’re celebrating gender equality. To mark the occasion, we spoke to writer, editor, and mum @thehelsproject about the importance of raising children to value the importance of gender equality.
Hels says ...
Our son turned four in September, and he amazes me every single day with his observations, his comments, and his growing understanding of the world around us. A six-year-long global study found that by age 10, kids start to adopt gender stereotypes, which just emphasises how important it is to address this subject from a young age, and this starts at home.
Talk to your kids about women’s rights and gender equality
Make it a general, and regular discussion - talk about it at the dinner table and make it the norm to do so. Explain what we still need to do to achieve equality. Encourage your kids to ask questions. My son came home from nursery a few weeks ago and told me they’d been learning about superheroes. He named Batman and Robin, Superman and Spiderman, and then told me he’d asked why there weren’t any girl superheroes. This prompted his keyworker to then talk about Wonder Woman and Batgirl, and he chose to draw Wonder Woman when they all sat down to draw. I couldn’t believe that he’d had to ask, but I was also so proud that he did.
Sharing is caring
I had our daughter last January, and she was just six weeks old when we went into the first lockdown, and as I was on maternity leave, caring for both children fell largely to me. My husband has worked from home since the start of the pandemic, and we’ve made a conscious effort to share chores around the house so that our son doesn’t just see “Daddy working, Mummy looking after us.” Kids pick up on so much, and home life can be how they start to form their ideas of what it means to be male or female. I tend to do the cooking at home, and my husband does a lot of the cleaning, but we want to make it clear that jobs around the house are not “Mum’s job” or “Dad’s job” - the tasks are divided by skills or interests, rather than by gender. We share the (never-ending) loads of clothes washing and we ask our son to help out.
Encouraging children to help out from an early age can make a huge difference to the way they view the roles in the home - my son loves hoovering and often asks to bake with me (although he is probably much more interested in the fact he gets to eat whatever food is made afterwards!)
Read, read, read
Reading is a huge deal in our home, and it’s an incredible way to help children embrace diversity and role models. I’ve made a lot of changes to our bookshelves over the last couple of years, after realising so many of the books we had for our son featured either boys that looked like him or animals as the stars of the books.
I’ve been on a mission to diversify our shelves (my own included) and we have read so many incredible books featuring characters from different cultures and races and heroes in every shape and size. Reading books with strong female leads has been a great way to continue conversations with him on gender equality, and I hope will show him that both he, and his sister, can be whoever they want to be.
Let boys cry
This is one thing that I’ve noticed more and more as my son has grown up, the way he is spoken to if he cries. On one occasion, he fell from a chair and landed awkwardly, and he instinctively burst into tears. I went straight over to him and told him it was okay to cry because the fall had scared him and he had hurt himself. I wanted him to know that crying is valid and a completely healthy way to express his emotions, and I asked him if he wanted a hug. An older relative who was there immediately told him to stop being silly, and that big boys don’t cry. I focused on my son and reiterated what I had said. I never want him to feel that crying is weak.
Challenge the stereotypes
We all have an unconscious gender bias, and it’s up to us to challenge this. My son absolutely loves cars, from about 12 months onwards he would gravitate towards car toys in soft plays, at nursery and we used to spend hours watching cars from our windows, and his other favourite thing to do was to push his buggy (it took us forever to get anywhere!) So I bought him a toy buggy. He chose a pink one covered with stars - he loved putting his soft toys in it and walking it everywhere, and I hope I’ve taught him that he can play with whatever he is interested in. He loves painting his nails with me - although has zero patience when it comes to letting them dry - and has a whale of a time with my jewellery box, inspired I think by the crab in the movie Moana who loves shiny things! I’ve encouraged him to help me with his baby sister, and now he often tells me how when he plays with girls at nursery, they take it in turns to be the mummy and the child.
Both girls and boys have a role to play. I never want either of my children to grow up feeling that they can or cannot do something simply because of their gender. I do not pretend to be an expert, but I’m raising my children in a way that I hope will encourage them to challenge, to question, and to ultimately thrive, whatever they choose to do.
Childrensalon are passionate about fair gender representation
At Childrensalon we ensure that every person who joins us receives the same pay for the same job and we are very proud that our Gender Pay Report reflects not just this, but that the company also nurtures and has a strong management team made up of 69-74% women in the top pay quartiles.
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