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Stereotypes are holding us back

Consciously and subconsciously we all hold beliefs about what men and women, boys and girls should do, or can do.[40] These beliefs are also called gender norms and are often expressed as stereotypes that represent or classify women and men in simplified ways. We are all familiar with stereotypes such as those that frame girls and women as good at cooking, housework and looking after people, and less good at maths, leading or sport, or those which frame boys and men as good at sport, fixing and building things, and leading, but less good at caring, or showing emotion.

We are all exposed to gender norms and stereotypes from the day we are born. These stereotypes inform everything from toys to marketing, from which chores boys and girls do and how much pocket money they receive[41] to who gets selected for leadership positions. When gender norms or stereotypes create barriers to individual’s choices or opportunities they lead to different outcomes over our lives and reinforce gender gaps. Although messages about gender vary across cultural, geographic, and socioeconomic groups, gender norms and stereotypes persist across all of Australia’s populations.

Evidence indicates that gendered stereotypes and norms are at the core of key gender equality challenges, including occupational gender segregation, the feminisation and undervaluing of care work, the under representation of women in STEM fields, the under representation of women in leadership and decision making, and gender based violence.[42] If Australia abandoned prescriptive gender norms that constrain men and women educational and work choices, the Australian economy would grow by $47 billion by 2040 and $163 billion by 2050.[43]


In what areas are stereotypes a key barrier to achieving gender equality?

[40] Deloitte Access Economics (2022) Breaking the norms: Unleashing Australia’s economic potential, Report prepared in partnership with Australians Investing in Women, November 2022 p. 2

[41] Westpac Kids and Money report pp. 13-15 2023

[42] University of Queensland: Hands up for Gender Equality p. 10

[43] Deloitte Access Economics (2022) Breaking the norms:, November 2022 p. 2