What are gender stereotypes (and why should I care?)


Introduce gender stereotypes to parents, as well as the link between gender stereotypes, gender equality and school retention.
What are gender stereotypes (and why should I care?)

Brief description of the issue

Students that embody gender stereotypes the most are the ones who drop out of school the most (RRM, 2018). In order to encourage school retention of all children, it is therefore important to break down gender stereotypes starting in early childhood, when children develop their gender identity (Boyd and Bee, 2015). This workshop aims at initiating the discussion with parents about gender stereotypes and the role they play as adults in reinforcing these stereotypes with their kids.

What is a gender stereotype?

According to UN Human Rights, a gender stereotype is “a generalised view or preconception about attributes or characteristics, or the roles that are or ought to be possessed by, or performed by women and men.” However, no innate behavioural difference between boys and girls has been scientifically proven (Vidal, 2015). The differences we observe are therefore socially constructed. These gender stereotypes perpetuate inequalities between women and men and are linked to school dropout.

Activity: What are the gender stereotypes associated with boys and girls? List the ones you know!

Here is a list of a few well-known stereotypes to kick-start the discussion if you lack inspiration!

Girls bring gentleness to the group.Boys are more physical and need to be more active than girls.
Girls will pout more often and for no reason.Conflicts are easier to go through with boys, there is less drama with boys.
Girls like role plays and dolls.Boys are only interested in motor and construction games.
Girls are more emotional.Boys are more rational.
Girls are more fearful.Boys are reckless.

Housework and domestic chores

Start by playing the following video:

After watching the video together, ask parents to comment it and to share how they share domestic chores at home. Keep going by telling them the following:

Even if children, at home, see their parents equally sharing domestic chores (cleaning up, taking care of the kids, etc.), they will still associate women and mothers with these chores because the majority of the commercials, books and other media still does this association. This is why it is important to not only be a positive role model for your children, but also to challenge stereotypical representations you see daily with your child.

Toys and activities

Ask this question to parents: “How do you know if a toy is for boys or girls?” Collect a few answers, then show this decision flowchart.

All joking aside, toys allow children to develop various skills. For example, construction blocks develop children’s spatial awareness, as symbolic and role-playing games such as playing with dolls develop their relational abilities. To make sure all children develop all areas equally, it is important to allow them to play with a diversity of toys.

Behaviours and emotions

Gendered socialization reinforces gender stereotypes. For example, anger is more accepted when expressed by boys. During childhood, boys learn mainly how to express their anger (and less often other emotions), which can further down the road hinder their abilities to communicate (Ducret & Le Roy, 2012). We also notice that adults, when talking to girls, have conversation topics more oriented towards emotions. Adults also tolerate crying more with girls than with boys (CSF, 2016). At an age as early as 7 years old, girls are able to name synonyms to a greater variety of emotions than boys can, the only emotion to which they can find more synonyms than girls being “anger” (BBC, 2018). It is therefore important to let children, especially boys, express their emotions and to help them control these emotions. The following video shows a great strategy to help toddlers learn how to regulate their emotions:

If you are looking for a more in-depth article about how gender stereotypical parenting can influence early childhood social development, have a look at this research update by the Child & Family Blog. You will also find below a downloadable document titled Challenging gender stereotypes in the early years: the power of parents. This recent (2018) evidence paper will be of great use for parents wanting to know more about this subject.


BOYD, Denise et BEE, Helen (2015). L’enfance: Les âges de la vie, édition abrégée, 584 pages.

BBC (2018). No More Boys And Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free?, Outline Productions, accessible at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/proginfo/2017/33/no-more-boys-and-girls

CONSEIL DU STATUT DE LA FEMME (2016). Avis: L’égalité entre les sexes en milieu scolaire, Gouvernement du Québec, 154 pages.

COSSETTE, Louise (2017). Cerveau, hormones et sexe. Des différences en question. Les éditions du remue-ménage, 112 pages.

DUCRET, Véronique et LE ROY, Véronique (2012). La poupée de Timothée et le camion de Lison. Guide d’observation des comportements des professionnel-le-s de la petite enfance envers les filles et les garçons. Le deuxième Observatoire, Genève, 67 pages. Accessible at: http://www.2e-observatoire.com/downloads/livres/brochure14.pdf

OUR WATCH (2018). Challenging gender stereotypes in the early years: the power of parents. Melbourne, Australia: Our Watch, accessible at: https://www.ourwatch.org.au/getmedia/e42fe5ce-8902-4efc-8cd9-799fd2f316d7/OUR0042-Parenting-and-Early-Years-AA.pdf.aspx?ext=.pdf

RÉSEAU RÉUSSITE MONTRÉAL (2018). “Pour une égalité filles-garçons en persévérance scolaire”, Réseau Réussite Montréal – Dossiers thématiques, accessible at: http://www.reseaureussitemontreal.ca/dossiers-thematiques/egalite-filles-garcons-reussite-scolaire/

SECRÉTARIAT À LA CONDITION FÉMININE (2018). Portail sans stéréotypes, accessible at: http://www.scf.gouv.qc.ca/sansstereotypes/quest-ce-quun-stereotype/

UN Human Rights, 2019. “Gender stereotyping”, page consulted on August 7, 2019, accessible at: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/WRGS/Pages/GenderStereotypes.aspx


VIDAL, Catherine (2015). Nos cerveaux, tous pareils, tous différents! Laboratoire de l’Égalité, Éditions Belin, 79 pages.

YALE UNIVERSITY (2016). Helping Toddlers Regulate Emotions, video accessible at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-H14NNUYwVc