1st Edition

Challenging Gender Stereotypes in the Early Years Changing the Narrative

By Susie Heywood, Barbara Adzajlic Copyright 2023
    224 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Speechmark

    224 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Speechmark

    What does gender equity mean for early years practitioners? What are early years settings already doing to promote gender equality, and why is this so important? How can we provide children with a solid basis from which they can grow into people who are not limited by society’s expectations of their gender?

    This is a manual for every early years practitioner who wishes to expand their knowledge and improve their practice around gender stereotyping in the early years. Drawing from the authors’ experience developing a public health programme tackling gender stereotypes, it explores the reasons why gender inequality is still an issue, identifies the ways it is perpetuated and provides a framework and practical tools to drive change. The framework includes an audit process to celebrate areas of success and to identify areas for development, alongside a host of suggestions on how to navigate tricky situations in creative, respectful and effective ways.

    With the voices and experiences of experts and practitioners woven throughout, alongside key reflections and scenarios to critically engage with, Challenging Gender Stereotypes in the Early Years challenges readers to consider their own practice, drive staff awareness and make a difference to their setting.

    Title Page

    Table of Contents


    An Important Note on Safety and Self-Care


    Part 1

    1. Key Concepts and Definitions
    2. Gender Inequality: What Are We Getting Right?
    3. Young Brains: Gender and Child Development
    4. How Gender Stereotypes Are Reinforced
    5. Part 2

    6. What’s the Harm?
    7. Violence Against Women and Girls
    8. Man Up! Gender Stereotypes and Male Violence
    9. Gendered Bodies
    10. Parent Pressure
    11. Sexuality and Gender Identity: The Pressure to Conform
    12. Learning, Working, Earning
    13. Mental Health
    14. Gender and the Early Years Workforce
    15. Part 3

    16. Auditing Your Practice
    17. Bias, and How To Get Over It!
    18. Equitable Practice
    19. What Parents Can Do and How to Get Them On Board
    20. Practice Scenarios
    21. A Call to Action

    Appendix 1: Action Checklist

    Appendix 2: Audit Table

    Appendix 3: Further Information




    Susie Heywood and Barbara Adzajlic are public health professionals with over 15 years' experience working on topics such as mental health, gender based violence, suicide prevention, behaviour change and inequalities.

    Together Susie and Barbara co-created the Gender Friendly Nursery, a programme of training and accreditation supporting early learning and childcare establishments to address gender equality as part of their roles with NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde. They now work together to offer guidance, support and training to organisations wishing to improve their practice in relation to gender inequality.

    NPFS wholeheartedly recommend the work of Susie and Barbara. Whether you are an early years parent/carer, practitioner or allied professional – they provide an incredible insight into how gender stereotypes can limit children and how we can reduce them, making positive changes to the lives and experiences of our children and young people.

    Margaret Wilson, Chair, The National Parent Forum of Scotland


    respectme, Scotland's Anti-Bullying Service sees gender stereotyping as a critical factor in many relationship, bullying and discrimination situations. This book delivers an invaluable resource for people who care for young children to understand why harmful attitudes towards gender stereotypes and inequalities, often emerging in the early years, can have lifelong impacts if left unchallenged.

    Lorraine Glass, Policy and Improvement Manager, respectme


    As Scotland gradually wakes up to the long-term social significance of early childhood care and education, this comprehensive and highly accessible guide to tackling gender stereotypes couldn’t be more timely. Essential reading for all early years educators.

    Sue Palmer, Chair, Upstart Scotland


    Preventing violence against women and girls should start in the early years. Susie and Barbara’s work helps practitioners understand the links between VAWG and the gender stereotypes that children are directed towards from an early age; and the significant part they can play in preventing it.

    Davy Thompson, Campaign Director, White Ribbon Scotland


    After being part of the documentary No More Boys and Girls I witnessed first hand the impact that gender stereotypes have on our children. Despite a rise in awareness there is still much work to be done and this book is paramount to helping educators make a difference to our children at an early stage – in my experience the earlier we can teach our children about spotting and dealing with stereotypes the better. This clear, practical guide is a must own for early years educators and written by experts in their field.

    Graham Andre, Assistant Head at Lanesend Primary and teacher featured on No More Boys and Girls


    Susie and Barbara are amazing and passionate trainers, who will open your eyes through their knowledge on gender equity. Their insights into this important subject will really challenge you to reflect on and update your practice.

    Tracey Riseborough, Head of Kinderly Learn


    A clear, logical and practical approach to addressing gender and other stereotypes in early years settings and why this is so important. A must-read for anyone studying or working in the early years and all early childhood settings.

    Mary Beare Aust, Lecturer in Early Childhood Education, Institute of Technology Carlow


    Challenging Gender Stereotypes in the Early Years takes an evidence-informed, intersectional deep dive into gender sterotypes, inequality, and how we can challenge the narrative... As I look up from reading it, I make a mental note that challenging gender stereotypes requires action and commitment from us all, and I already feel better equipped.

    Rhiann McLean, Children in Scotland