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Blog: The importance of role models to gender equality

22 May 2017 

SDS Head of National Training Programme Development Karen Murray talks about the importance of role models when it comes to tackling gender inequality in careers.

Role models are vital in tackling gender inequality - if you can see it you can be it.

We know this because we've asked young people.

They tell us seeing or talking to someone like them in a job or career they want to get into can help them to push through any barriers that may be in their way.

At SDS, the power of positive role models is just one of the ways we're tackling gender inequality.

The future's bright

More than 10,500 women started an apprenticeship in Scotland last year.

But it's fair to say that seeing Kelsey Pexton from Clydebank, an apprentice in Arnold Clark's body shop in Glasgow, has more power to drive a young woman towards the traditionally male-dominated automotive industry than any statistics will.

The same goes for female dominated industries.

Hearing how inspirational Childcare apprentice Liam McColl has been at Southside Daycare in Nitshill will be a boost to any young man who may have had reservations about giving the sector a go.

Early Learning and Childcare, engineering and construction are not the only sectors who recognise there is work to do to address issues of gender balance.

Employers and local businesses are harnessing their own role model power across Scotland to unlock deeper talent pools.

They are working hard with our support on opportunities for young men and women in their areas, starting conversations that can change minds and careers.

Across the year we're holding and supporting events where young people get a chance to find out more about employers in their area.

By getting in to schools, or getting pupils out of class, we can show them the opportunities in their community that people like them have been able to take advantage of.

That need for quality contact between employers and pupils has driven our work with Developing the Young Workforce groups on Marketplace, our digital matchmaking service for schools and employers.

Starting young

The battle for gender equality starts young.

By the time most children reach primary school they'll have formed ideas about what jobs they want to do by soaking up the world around them.

Superheroes and pop stars aside, they're already seeing cues on what may or may not be 'acceptable' as a job for them.

SDS is uniquely placed to support pupils to explore their career possibilities.

Our Improving Gender Balance Scotland project works with early learning, primary and secondary schools to tackle issues of unconscious bias.

The project, in partnership with Education Scotland and the Institute of Physics aims to drive uptake of science, tech, engineering and maths subjects in the senior phase for boys and girls.

You can watch a film of Duloch Primary School's experiences to find out more.

And we're there for those early subject choices too.

SDS careers advisers - trained in recognising unconscious bias - work in every secondary school in Scotland offering career information, advice and guidance from S1 until pupils leave school, and beyond from our careers centres.

Careers advisers are available for one-to-one interviews at early subject choice time, to support young people to make informed decisions.

They also provide support for the role models in daily contact with young people - parents, carers and teachers - at this vital transition point, to ensure pupils are accessing consistent support and information.

Parents and carers are the number one influence on young people when it comes to making career choices, followed closely by teachers so its important for us that they recognise too that there is no such thing as a boy's job or a girl's job

We have dedicated resources for parents, carers and teachers on our careers web service My World of Work. It's full of information about jobs across all sectors, routes in and projected skills gaps as well as advice on money, exam results and subject choices.

You can lay your hands on our Career Conversation in a Nutshell series too, developed with the National Parent Forum of Scotland.

These are a handy guide on how to talk about careers with your children, what they want to hear, with specific looks at digital and tech careers as well as creativity and enterprise

On the right path

At SDS we take our status as a role model very seriously.

Any equality issue at heart comes down to choice - gender equality is no different.

SDS is committed to taking positive action and driving strategies and activities that put equality of opportunity at the heart of their delivery - and that goes for inside our business too.

SDS is uniquely placed to be a catalyst for change across our work with our partners, individuals, employers and in apprenticeships.

Societal change like this will always take time, but together, we're making great strides.


Source - Skills Development Scotland website

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