Despite all the advances in sex equality of the past three decades, young people are still actively discouraged from going into careers outside the “norm” for their genders, a new study has suggested.
Yet the survey by the Equal Opportunities Commission found more than eight out of 10 girls and more than half of boys said they would or might be interested in doing a non-traditional job.
Three quarters of girls and six out of 10 boys said they wanted to try doing work normally done by the opposite sex before making a final career choice.
A quarter of boys, for instance, said caring work sounded interesting to them, and 12 per cent of girls said they were interested in construction.
Yet fewer than three per cent of childcare apprenticeships are male and fewer than two per cent of construction ones female.
Just as worrying, the Free to Choose report found that only a sixth young people received any advice or information on work experience in a sector with a workforce currently dominated by the opposite sex.
Some young people reported being actively discouraged to pursue a career outside the norm for their sex.
Last year, the Institute of Leadership and Management's Women and Leadership survey found that this sort of stereotyping continues throughout women's professional lives and is much more of a problem for women than a lack of support for family commitments.
Half the 211 women and men from middle management to director level questioned by the ILM said that the stereotyping of roles and skills was the major hurdle facing women compared to one in five blaming family commitments.
Commenting on the latest research, EOC chair Julie Mellor said: "Girls from lower socio-economic groups are often ending up in lower paid work than boys, despite doing well at school.
"Opportunities for some boys to take up the work that suits them are also being blocked."
"Britain can’t go on letting young people down – the choices they make at an early age affect their whole lives and the economy suffers if employers can't get the right mix of skills and talents," she added.
The report has been welcomed by education secretary Ruth Kelly, who said: "The links between occupational segregation, national and employer productivity, skills shortages and the gender pay gap are particularly striking.
"It is clear that these issues need to be addressed, both for the benefit of our economy and on social justice grounds."