Raising a gender-neutral child for future employment

Raising a gender-neutral child for future employment

Boy hugging doll photo by Pink Sherbet Photography, flickr

WASHINGTON, April 3, 2014 — Prior to the 1960s, parents generally raised their male and female children under the American social mores of the times – men had a career and women ran a household.  There, of course, were exceptions.  During the first and second world wars, for example, women worked in large numbers in certain types of jobs such as secretaries, administrative jobs, sewing, cooking and other stereotypical jobs of the time.

They were forced to work because their primary bread winners were deployed.

During the 1960s and the 1970s, a movement began to redefine the roles of men and women in life and in the workplace.  It is likely that the majority of American families still lived the pre-1960s American ideal.  However, there were some new thinkers who were starting to recognize that women could and should serve in impactful jobs in the workplace.

After the 1960s and 1970s, a schism of thinking resulted.  Some people were beginning to see women in the workplace as an acceptable or even as a good idea.  Small samples of men were starting to support the idea and began thinking about assisting in domestic matters.  The majority thinking still reigned, but women were starting to obtain significant educations.

As a result of those two decades, the roles of men and women in life and the workplace began to change rapidly in the 80s, 90s and in the current millennium.  Now, the tables have turned; there is a much smaller percentage of people who hold onto earlier ideals than those who have started to see women as a real asset in the workplace and men as a true contributor to domestic responsibilities.  There is a practical undercurrent that pushes this type of thinking – households with two income earners are financially much more successful than those with single earners.

With the changing roles of men and women in our society, parents of today have to teach their children differently.  They must teach them to think that they can succeed in any role they choose. They must not suggest or directly say that one role is better than another.  And, they must encourage their children to achieve their dreams without judgment based upon gender.

Parents who focus on future success in the workplace without focusing on gender may produce the most healthy workers.  I was raised by parents who pushed me to be successful without focusing on my gender.  As a young employee working with police and firefighters, I never thought of myself as a woman in a man’s world.  I noticed, of course, that I was one of the only females working in a significant role with these men (there were many female secretaries and administrators, but few, if any, female police officers or firefighters). I sometimes felt that the men were treating me disrespectfully.  However, my first thought was not that “they are treating me like a girl.”  Instead, my first thought was, “they are rude.”

I attribute my response and my correct attribution of their bad behavior to my upbringing.  I do not recall be treated “like a girl,” whatever that means.  I recall being told to get up off my butt and make something of myself – be smart, make money, and take no prisoners.”

Family members who are one generation older recall being raised in precisely the opposite way – “act like a girl and do not have the audacity to think you can compete with men in a man’s world.”

Where are we now?  We still overly focus on the differences between men and women because, let’s face it, there are noticeable differences.  We incorrectly focus on how a woman can be more like a man in a man’s world.  We digress about whether it is acceptable for a woman to be aggressive in a man’s world or is it better for her to be assertive (less pushy if you will)?  We constantly compare the traits of each gender to see whose are more effective in the workplace.

The formula for successfully raising a child who intends to work is to tell them that their success will be limited only by their own belief systems.   Tell them they can succeed, give them the tools they need, and gently kick them out the door.

This week’s prescription:  Don’t make it about gender, make it about success.

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