Apprenticeships are a great way to get ahead in work, offering skills and experience before you head into the workplace. It also seems to be a fairly equal playing field for both sexes, with statistics saying that, in 2013, the gender split in those taking apprenticeships was 55% female and 45% male. However, these figures hide a more worrying trend, as there is still a very definite gender divide when it comes to apprenticeships.
It seems that not all of the available options are being promoted equally to males and females, and how are you supposed to make a truly informed decision about your future without that? When it comes to apprenticeships, there is a real split in the types of work that are being taken up by each sex, with females, for example, only making up around 3% of construction apprentices. This trend continues into other areas, as gender stereotypes still seem to dictate what professions are deemed ‘suitable’ for both men and women.
Female apprentices are under-represented in fields like engineering, while elsewhere you will struggle to find anything like proportional representation for males in areas such as childcare. This split in representation among men and women across different career sectors also plays out in the wider workforce. So is it just part of our society, and should we worry about it?
A lot of the reasoning behind this split in the types of apprenticeships favoured by males and females is down to society and our cultural conditioning. Media messages, peer pressure, and society at large splits males and females from an early age, with stereotypes about what is considered ‘men’s work and ‘women’s work’ playing out from nursery age onwards. Just take a look at a toy shop and see how the toys fall into these same type of stereotypes. Boys are given things like hammers and construction toys, while girls are more often pushed towards traditionally ‘female’ roles, such as childcare.
Overcoming such an ingrained sensibility can be tough, as some students will simply refuse to consider apprenticeships on the other side of this perceived gender divide. But should you simply turn down a potentially lucrative career just because you are the ‘wrong’ sex? Of course, not, and some schools and colleges could do more to promote options equally to both sexes, offering a challenge to traditional stereotypes from an early age.
While girls should certainly not be discouraged from following their dreams into traditionally male-dominated industries, there should also be more information offered about these roles to young women.
The same goes for males looking to break into traditionally female dominated fields, such as child-care. With more children being raised in broken homes than ever before, many are lacking a solid male role-model from a young age. It seems counter-productive, therefore, to discourage males from entering professions like child-care, and thereby failing to provide positive male role models for young boys AND girls.
If you are interested in a career that falls the other side of the traditional gender divide, don’t be put off. While your college may not be making much noise about the construction or child-care apprenticeship that you favour, it doesn’t mean you can’t look into it, and apply!