A recent study by Oxford University has found sixth-form girls far more concerned about their ability to land a good job than their male student counterparts.

The survey looked at almost 3,700 sixth-formers from 63 UK schools, including Oxford High School and St Mary’s Cambridge, where 56 percent of boys and 75 percent of girls believed men will receive higher paying jobs upon graduating from university.

The research also suggests that both genders have very different expectations when it comes to their future career; girls narrow their options by prioritising ‘worthwhile’ jobs, like charity work or work in a public museum or gallery, while boys push for positions with a much higher wage and progressive opportunities.

“Our research has confirmed that gender-based differences in career confidence start early,” says Jonathan Black, Director of Oxford University’s Career Service. “Sixth-form girls have lower confidence about their career and, compared with boys, are more concerned about each aspect of job application, and are more interested in careers that offer job security.”

The study found that once girls reach adolescence, they are already limiting their career options as they start to internalise traditional gender stereotypes. Experts suggest this trend may be a culmination of old-fashioned gender stereotypes in which men were expected to be the primary breadwinner.

“This has the knock-on effect that girls may be self-limiting their choice of careers, especially because the types of jobs they seek often have informal entry processes- for example networking or low and unpaid internships,” adds Black. “We are exploring ways to intervene and equip school pupils to improve their career confidence.”

On a scale of one to six, with six meaning ‘most confident’, girls averaged 3.7 and boys averaged 4.3 when asked to rate their personal job prospects after leaving university.

Using the same scale, there was no notable difference in confidence between girls at single sex or co-educational institutions. It was also reported that 57 percent of boys in all-boys’ schools expressed a keen interest in studying the arts or humanities at university, compared with 49 percent at co-educational schools.

The study’s findings were presented at the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) conference which took place in Newport, South Wales, earlier this week.

Among Monday’s conference speakers was Karen Parker, founder and owner of Karen Parker Associates, a business consultancy firm. She said: “Across corporate life we still see a gender pyramid of achievement. Most corporations are employing 50 percent male graduates and 50 percent female graduates.

“But the time we reach middle management, the split is approximately 70/30. And by the time we reach corporate level, less than 10 percent of positions are held down by women.”

Oxford’s Careers Service is developing a programme called “Ignite”, which aims to improve students’ confidence in their future career potential, and is currently being piloted in a number of UK schools.

Supported by Newnham College, Cambridge, and the GSA, the programme is designed to build on students’ poise and determination in terms of academics, extra-curricular and social activities, and future career opportunities.

This research follows a similar Oxford University graduate survey, which earlier this year revealed a ‘gender pay gap’ in the jobs secured by male and female graduates after leaving university.

Image via Shutterstock.

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