Today I took part in the Women of the World Festival, 2014 at Southbank in London. I was delighted to be involved in such an exciting and important event!
The theme of the day was ‘Guess Who’, where 7 professionals (2 men and 5 women) stood on stage and gave only their name. The announcer, a presenter from Cbeebies no less(!), then read out the 7 professions and a piece of information about each professional, such as favourite colour or hobby, and from this one hundred 10 year olds had to guess which person matched each profession.
The professions were; Plumber, Artist, Dancer, Scientist, Champion Athlete, Railway Engineer and Lighting Technician.
The idea of the event was to break down gender stereotypes surrounding profession and show children than men and women can do ANY job they want, hurrah! At the beginning of the day the stereotyped beliefs shone through. Both men were most likely to be voted Plumber and Athlete, because they were men. I was voted Dancer and Artist by over half of the groups, with only 10 out of 100 guessing I was a scientist.
After the children voted they then had two interactive sessions, a panel or a workshop, where professionals demonstrate their trade in a fun and engaging way.
I was asked to do a workshop. I designed an interactive experiment that the kids took part in, spelling out how science as a whole works and how psychology fits into this. As science is about asking questions and designing experiments to test them I had a bit of fun, explaining that psychology is the science of people and behaviour.
Will you get round an obstacle course faster, when blindfolded, if a friend or someone else is giving you instructions?
I asked the kids which group they thought would be faster and got some great responses!
H1‘Friends might try to trick you so that group will be slower’
H2 ‘You might not listen as hard to someone who’s not your friend because you don’t like them’
H3 ‘Friends are always silly so it will take longer’
H4 ‘Friends trust each other more, so that group will be quicker’.
One group had boys and girls so we also looked into gender differences
H5 ‘Boys are lazy so girls will be quicker’.
The kids were split into ‘best friends’ and ‘classmates’ pairs and each took it in turn to guide and be guided round a basic obstacle course (made with chairs and masking tape! Very professional I know) and were timed when doing it. After they all had a turn we plotted the average times of each group on a bar chart:
Though I’m not sure the results would stand up to peer review scrutiny, it was great to see the kids engaged and really get into trying to figure out why each group behaved differently.
The Big Reveal!
After the workshops we all gathered back on the main stage to find out which professional was which!
Dancer; Male (Lee)
Artist; Male (…)
Champion Athlete (weight lifter); Female (Monique)
Plumber; Female (Petra)
Technician; Female (Roz)
Railway Engineer; Female (Keely)
Scientist; Female (ME!)
It was great to hear some of the reasons why the children assigned professions to each person:
Lee got Athlete because he wore trainers and running shorts, I got Artist because of the headband I was wearing and Monique got Dancer because of her slender figure. We then asked them do they think they were perhaps incorrect in judging people’s jobs on what they look like or what gender they are? The kids agreed.
The first group was all girls so I really drilled home how girls can do anything they want; one girl said I’d inspired her to be a scientist ‘but not in brains, because they’re gross’. I’ll take that win! The second group said I was the most fun session they’d done, which I’m also delighted with.
This event has made me realise even more how ingrained the stereotypes are for male and female jobs; we have to work harder to put an end to these so girls can pursue any career rather than one society deems normal.
I had a great time, I’d love to do more things like this, so if anyone knows of any opportunities please put in a good word! Also, I’ve got the name of a great Plumber who won’t make sexist remarks when I ask questions about my kitchen! Double Win.