One of the barriers that affects women's self-confidence and career is gender stereotypes. According to a report of IBR (2020), only about 29 per cent of women are in senior positions worldwide which is really astonishing in this modern era. Though many laws and policies tend to ensure gender equality, gender stereotypes still exist.
Gender stereotypes refer to generalised perceptions about behaviours, attitudes and personalities that are expected from an individual based on their biological sex. In Bangladesh, gender stereotypes are practiced even before the birth of a child. When a woman becomes pregnant, society is eager to know whether it is a boy or a girl. If it is a boy, then blue colour is associated and if it is a girl, pink colour is associated with her accessories. After the birth of a child, male children are given gender stereotypical toys like Superman, cars, etc. While female children are given Barbie dolls, cooking toys, etc. Schools and textbooks also promote gender stereotypes. The textbooks promote gender stereotypes through visual representation, linguistic sexism and so on. Gender division of labour is portrayed through women's association with cooking, sewing and other traditional roles and men's role as the head of the house, bread-earner, etc. Also it is mostly men who are the authors of these textbooks. Moreover, these textbooks mostly include the biography of several male scholars but female scholars are rarely included. Furthermore, female students are encouraged to take the subject of home economics in secondary level while males are encouraged to take agriculture or higher math.
Women are now participating in public workforces but they are encouraged to choose gender stereotypical professions. Women are encouraged to take caring jobs like doctor, nurse, teacher while men are encouraged to be engineer, leader and so on. I am not underestimating the caring jobs but the established stereotypical notion that says women are unable to be a pilot, engineer, or scientist is very problematic. These types of notions actually hamper women's performance and self-confidence. Katherine Coffman (2018) stated, “Gender stereotypes determine people’s beliefs about themselves and others". If a woman is being told that she cannot be a scientist or that math is too hard for her, she will also think that math is way too hard for her and she will never be able to be good at math. In my friend circles, most of my female friends do have fear of math including me because we were told from our childhood that math is a very hard subject for us.
These types of stereotypical activities also promote sexual harassment and violence which is increasing in our country day by day. It is to be noted that, in the admission coaching centers, the tutors and other college seniors encourage the boys by saying that once they get a chance in any renowned public university, girls will automatically fall for them. On the contrary, in the modern era, women are encouraged to be a superwoman, i.e. she has to be a good student, beautiful, slim, and skilled at household activities in addition to having a stereotypical profession. In a word, women have to multi-task. These huge workloads affect both women's performance, health and careers.
There are many ways to prevent these types of stereotypical activities. Changes should be brought firstly in the home. The blue-pink stereotypical distinction should be rejected. Children should be given gender-neutral toys and both male and female children should be taught cooking, washing clothes and other caring jobs. It is to be noted that cooking, washing clothes, etc. are basic life skills which everybody should learn. Everybody should know that work has no gender.
Educational institutions should also bring changes in their curriculum. Both male and female students should be encouraged to participate in all types of sports. Furthermore, both men and women should have the chance to choose their preferable subjects. Home economics, higher math or agriculture - all are important subjects and these should not be limited within particular individuals based on their biological identity. Moreover, stereotypical activities should be eliminated from workplaces and a safe environment should be ensured for both men and women. Furthermore, it is important to engage men into the whole process because gender stereotypes not only affect women but also affects men severely. It is necessary to let men know about the severe effects of these upon them. When they will know about its effects upon them, hopefully, they will also cooperate to eliminate these activities.
of Women and Gender Studies,
University of Dhaka