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Women in the UK told to wear revealing clothes and more make-up to work

A recent study also shows that girls as young as six can be led to believe men are smarter and more talented than women.

DRESS CODES WHICH discriminate against women are still widespread in UK workplaces.

This was after a parliamentary committee’s report found female employees had been told to dye their hair blonde, wear revealing clothes, and use more make-up.

It follows a UK petition calling for “outdated and sexist” dress codes to be changed so women have the option to wear flat formal shoes at work.

More than 152,000 people supported the campaign after Nicola Thorp lost her job as a receptionist because she refused to wear high heels.

According to Sky News, Thorp said: “This may have started over a pair of high heels but what it has revealed about discrimination in the UK workplace is vital, as demonstrated by the hundreds of women who came forward.”

This not only has an impact on working women today, but the ideas young girls have about who they see as smart and successful.

Conservative Party Conference - Day One Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Who is really, really smart?

A study published in the journal Science suggests that girls as young as six can be led to believe men are inherently smarter and more talented than women, making girls less motivated to pursue novel activities or ambitious careers.

That such stereotypes exist is hardly a surprise, but the findings show these biases can affect children at a very young age.

“As a society, we associate a high level of intellectual ability with males more than females, and our research suggests that this association is picked up by children as young six and seven,” said Andrei Cimpian, associate professor in the psychology department at New York University. Cimpian coauthored the study, which looked at 400 children ages five to seven.

In the first part of the study, girls and boys were told a story about a person who is “really, really smart,” a child’s idea of brilliance, and then asked to identify that person among the photos of two men and two men.

The people in the photos were dressed professionally, looked the same age and appeared equally happy. At five, both boys and girls tended to associate brilliance with their own gender, meaning that most girls chose women and most boys chose men.

shutterstock_264184355 Source: Shutterstock/mavo

But as they became older and began attending school, children apparently began endorsing gender stereotypes. At six and seven, girls were “significantly less likely” to pick women. The results were similar when the kids were shown photos of children.

Not so simple

Interestingly, when asked to select children who look like they do well in school, as opposed to being smart, girls tended to pick girls, which means that their perceptions of brilliance are not based on academic performance.

“These stereotypes float free of any objective markers of achievement and intelligence,” Cimpian said.

In the second part of the study, children were introduced to two new board games, one described as an activity “for children who are really, really smart” and the other one “for children who try really, really hard.”

Five-year-old girls and boys were equally likely to want to play the game for smart kids, but at age six and seven, boys still wanted to play that game, while girls opted for the other activity.

There isn’t anything about the game itself that becomes less interesting for girls, but rather it’s the description of it as being for kids that are really, really smart.

Different career choices

As a result, believing that they are not as gifted as boys, girls tend to shy away from demanding majors and fields, leading to big differences in aspirations and career choices between men and women.

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“These stereotypes discourage women’s pursuit of many prestigious careers; that is, women are underrepresented in fields whose members cherish brilliance,” the authors wrote.

It is still unclear where the stereotypes come from. Parents, teachers and peers and the media are the usual suspects, Cimpian said. But it is evident that action must be taken so that these biases don’t curtail girls’ professional aspirations.

“Instill the idea that success in any line of work is not an innate ability, whatever it is, but rather putting your head down, being passionate about what you are doing,” Cimpian said, adding that exposure to successful women who can serve as role models also helps.

Gender Steroetypes Source: Mark Lennihan/AP Images

Toy companies like Mattel, maker of the Barbie doll, have taken steps to try to reduce gender stereotypes. Mattel’s “You can be anything” Barbie campaign tells girls that they can be paleontologists, veterinarians or professors, among other careers. The campaign also holds out the possibility that a girl can imagine herself to be a fairy princess.

Rebecca S. Bigler, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, described Cimpian’s study “as exceptionally nice work.”

She suggested that the stereotypes develop in early elementary school when students are exposed to famous scientists, composers and writers, the “geniuses” of history, who are overwhelmingly men. Bigler said it is important to combine that knowledge with information on gender discrimination.

“We need to explain to children that laws were created specifically to prevent women from becoming great scientists, artists, composers, writers, explorers, and leaders,” Bigler added. ”

Children will then be… more likely to believe in their own intellectual potential and contribute to social justice and equally by pursuing these careers themselves.”

With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha

Read: The Irish Girl Guides is to start allowing transgender children into their ranks

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