Effects of opposite-sex friendships during childhood on future inclusivity

Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2019 by User Not Found

By Rebecca Kerr, OSCPA communications intern

“The hard work of gender diversity, inclusion, equity and equality might just begin on the playground,” Gwen Moran writes in her recent Fast Company article. Do you think this might be a little extreme? Maybe, but science is saying this idea might not be too far-fetched.

Moran calls on a number of prominent collegiate professors and researchers to support her argument. The first is Arizona State University professor Carol Martin, who says children can start recognizing their own gender as early as age two. She said this is also about the age “gender-segregated behavior” takes form. Typically, girls begin to play with girls and boys play with boys, normalized with stereotypical “gender reinforcers” pertaining to what encompasses what is typical of girl and boy play (i.e. girls playing with dolls and boys playing sports).

In order to combat this, Katie Kissinger, another researcher Moran references and the author of Anti-Bias Education in the Early Childhood Classroom, advises parents to discuss ways in which they can work to “avoid reinforcing gender stereotypes in their home.” She suggests they do this by calling attention to examples of bias if they witness them and facilitating further conversations with their children about what the implications of these biases are and how they are counterproductive.

Martin and her co-researcher, Sonya Xinyue Xiao, found “gender-enforcing behavior is linked to aggression and biased gender-related beliefs. Children who spent time with enforcers over months were more likely to play with same-gender peers and show more biased thoughts about gender.”

When there is such a clear and divisive separation between the sexes throughout childhood, Christia Brown, college professor and author of Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue: How to Raise Your Child Free of Gender Stereotypes, says the root of the ever-present gender inclusivity problem begins to take form.

She is cited in Moran’s article as saying, “so, you have these groups developing these different skill sets, and because they’re not interacting with each other, they’re not developing like cross-skills.”

These differing thought processes and skills are thought to perpetuate and intensify with time and age, and, all of a sudden, there are adult men and women in the workplace who fail to see eye-to-eye, successfully collaborate or have an appropriate work relationship.

Do you agree with this possible reasoning as to why gender inclusivity in the workplace is lacking? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below.

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