Adding to the list of parenting goals, challenges and maneuvering surprises along the way is the mighty weight of tackling gender stereotypes when they fall out of our children’s innocent mouths, and ensuring we’re not setting them in a negative way at home. Mighty heavy indeed!
I’m positive that every one of us has had our children say something so intrinsic with stereotypes that we grew up with that it makes us maybe smirk before we stop them and determine what to say next. I chose to be a stay-at-home mom when we had our first child, so it’s been important for me to teach my children that this was a choice, that it’s not my job to stay home (because certainly many of their friend’s moms do not) and that dads can stay home to raise kids too (we have a friend’s family that has a structure like that, which certainly helps to use as an example).
In her recent blog post, Betty-Ann Heggie looks at whether gender stereotypes are indeed part of our genetic thumbprint, or created by society.
Although I have witnessed extreme, caricature-like gender behaviour from a few of the men I have worked with, nonetheless, I have concluded that our differences are not innate, but rather due to the societal cultural expectations imposed upon us. ~ Betty-Ann Heggie
She shares how she witnessed men in her office sharing their concerns and struggles on parenting while outside those doors displaying a tough and ruthless marketing strategy. Would his employees take him as seriously if he shared his thoughts on how his daughter melted his heart at her ballet recital on the weekend? We’d hope so, but can’t say with certainty, and that needs to change.
With a husband as a police-officer, certainly a male dominated industry, and me as a stay at home mom, those issues can come up from time to time. Aside from pointing out our friend who is a stay-at-home dad, it’s interesting to note that his wife is a police officer. Our children need examples of each gender participating in all roles in the household and society so they too can make choices when they’re older based on what they truly have interest in rather than what they’re “supposed” to do.
In the workplace, Betty-Ann says challenging gender norms is what will ensure better future leaders. Leaders need to embrace the characteristics “typical” to their gender, while also stepping across those gender lines and practicing the qualities of the opposite gender. We need to stop referring to assertive female leaders as “bossy” (or worse) and even-tempered male leaders as “soft”. We simply need to refer to them as “good leaders” and raise them to achieve that end.