In this day and age, we like to think that anything a boy can do, a girl can do too. But according to new data released by Save the Children, by Grade 4, kids already have biased views when it comes to gender, believing that boys are smarter and worth more than girls.
The survey asked fourth graders in the U.S., Sierra Leone, and Côte d'Ivoire a series of questions relating to male and female power dynamics. As a result, it found that nearly 40 per cent of boys in the U.S. believe they are smarter than their female counterparts, and that two out of three boys in the Western African nations believe the same.
The research theorized that as a result of this belief, Grade 4 girls think they are less valued than boys. Thus, more than one in five girls believe they need less schooling than their male peers.
It's not hard to see where children are picking up these biased beliefs. Gender stereotypes are clearly to blame, as over 90 per cent of kids in Sierra Leone believe dads are the head of the household and moms are in charge of the kids. In the U.S., more than one-third of Grade 4 children believe this as well.
17 per cent of U.S. fourth graders believe a man would make a better boss than a woman.
While stereotypes of moms and dads are changing with more men than ever opting to be stay-at-home fathers and more women becoming career-focused after having kids, the change isn't happening fast enough to combat kids' gender bias.
Sadly, the finding that 17 per cent of U.S. fourth graders believe a man would make a better boss than a woman is proof.
"Girls are worth far more than what the world tells them," Carolyn Miles, president & CEO of Save the Children, said in a statement. "Globally, we know that girls are more likely than boys to miss out on school, experience violence and live in poverty.
"That is why we need to invest in their education and do everything possible to delay early marriage and motherhood. By providing children equal opportunities and access to learning, every girl can realize what she's truly worth."
Save the Children launched their survey on Oct. 11, also known as International Day of the Girl, to highlight the discrimination and inequality women and girls face today.
Last month, a global study confirmed Save the Children's findings that gender stereotypes are established in children far earlier than we thought. In fact, the Global Early Adolescent Study found that by the age of 10, gender roles are already "firmly rooted."
As a result, these stereotypes "leave girls at greater risk of dropping out of school or suffering physical and sexual violence, child marriage, early pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections," the report read.
So what can parents do to combat gender bias and stereotypes? According to Dr. Christia Spears Brown, an associate professor of developmental psychology at the University of Kentucky, you can start by taking gender out of your language and by focusing on kids as individuals.
"There's a lot of individual differences among children that don't follow gender lines," she previously told HuffPost Canada.