Institute of Education


IOE Director and Labour MP to co-chair commission to challenge gender stereotypes

30 April 2019

UCL Institute of Education (IOE) Director Professor Becky Francis and David Lammy MP are to co-chair a Fawcett commission on gender stereotypes as a poll reveals that 6 in 10 parents say product marketing “reinforces stereotypes about what girls and boys can do”.

Baby reveal - blue boy

The Fawcett Society, a charity that campaigns for gender equality and women’s rights at work, at home and in public life, conducted a poll which revealed mothers (63%) and fathers (60%) were equally likely to agree that product marketing reinforces gender stereotypes. However, this was not limited to parents, as over half of men and women who do not have children also agreed.

The survey also found six in ten (59%) people agreed that ‘it is more acceptable for a girl to be a ‘tomboy’ than it is for a boy to be ‘feminine’’. This finding was consistent across women and men, and across ages.

The Commission on Gender Stereotypes in Early Childhood has been set up to gather evidence and promote practical solutions to change childhood and change lives, and explore how gender stereotypes interact with other norms including race and class. It will run until 2020.

Gender reveal - girl

Professor Becky Francis, Director of the IOE and Co-Chair of the Commission, said: “I am delighted to be co-chairing this commission. The messages we give to children, at home, at school and as a society, have a huge bearing on the choices they feel are open to them, the skills and interests they develop, and on their futures.  

"As my own research has shown, the marketing of toys has a significant role in reinforcing traditional gender stereotypes about what is ‘appropriate’ for girls and for boys, which will feed into children’s later choices about which subjects to study at school and which career paths to consider.  We need to open up those choices for our children rather than narrowing them down.

"I very much look forward to working with David Lammy and the commission team to investigate these vital issues.”

Rt Hon David Lammy, MP for Tottenham and Co-Chair of the Commission, said: “Unjust stereotypes are massively detrimental to our society. As well as holding back women and girls, they send damaging messages to boys about what it means to be a man – like whether it’s okay to show emotion, or to have an equal role in parenting. Unravelling gender stereotypes is a social justice issue – this is about creating a fairer society where no child is limited just because of their sex, race, disability, or any other characteristic”.

The 25 members of the Commission include experts in parenting, education, and the commercial sector, as well as campaigners who are committed to tackling gender stereotypes. Organisations represented include the National Education Union, National Childbirth Trust, Usborne Books, Muslim Women’s Network, and Let Toys Be Toys.

Media contact

Rowan Walker, UCL Media Relations
T: +44 (0)20 3108 8515 / +44 (0)7769 141 006
E: rowan.walker@ucl.ac.uk