Common stereotypes of boys and girls

Meet Lifting Limits

An ambitious and altogether impressive Camden-based social enterprise, Lifting Limits are intent on driving social change in gender equality. Early intervention is at their core and they are running a year long evaluated pilot with five Camden primary schools as a first step to a wider initiative. They’re a perfect fit for Knowledge Quarter engagement, with its diverse work force across the humanities and sciences. To find out more about the scheme and how your organisation could participate, contact Rachel Hermer at


Guest post by Rachel Hermer


Lifting Limits is a Camden-based social enterprise, born out of frustration with the slow pace of change in gender equality and the paucity of initiatives that tackle the problem at its roots. Most of all, it is born of a vision of how to make change happen.

The manifestations of the problem are well known. For example:

  • women account for 7% of UK inventors
  • 11% of nurses are male
  • the gender pay gap is around 14% for full time workers
  • 1 in 4 women will suffer domestic abuse in her lifetime
  • 75% of suicides in the UK are male

We believe the roots go deep to the gendered inequalities children are subject to from birth. Gender stereotypes in books, the media and marketing perpetuate a world in which boys are strong and brave, protectors and adventurers, while girls are nurturing, thoughtful and frivolously artistic. Inadvertently schools often reinforce gender stereotypes: children are told to ‘man up’, boys are told to be brave when upset and the achievements of women are missing from parts of the curriculum.

Cumulatively, children receive strong messages about the different roles expected of women and men later in life – at home, at work and in public life. A child picks up from those around them what is seen as ‘normal’ or ‘appropriate’ for their gender. These gendered norms are fixed early, by about the age of eight, and they are a powerful factor in shaping the subjects children choose in school, the careers they aspire to, their sense of self, their behaviours towards one another and their ability to articulate their emotions.

So, by the time they reach secondary school:

  • girls account for 21% of physics A level and less than 10% of computing A level
  • boys account for only 27% of English A Level
  • over a third of girls in mixed-sex schools have experienced sexual harassment
  • the permanent exclusion rate for boys is over three times higher than for girls

Our vision is to address the problem of gender stereotypes before it has time to take hold, for gender equality to be mainstream in schools so that children grow up without these limits.  We want to see this in every primary school in England.  As a first step, we have developed a comprehensive set of lesson plans and resources that place gender equality into all subject areas of the national curriculum and school routines and we support schools to notice where they may be inadvertently reinforcing gender stereotypes.  We are piloting our approach with 5 Camden primary schools over the next school year. It will be rigorously evaluated with a view to creating a programme that can be replicated more widely across English primary schools.

There is no quick fix for gender inequality, but we are working to create conditions for change: meeting key stakeholders to raise awareness of the evidence and need for early intervention around gendered norms. The Knowledge Quarter is comprised of Camden’s most innovative and thoughtful organisations. We would love to involve you in our work and to have your support.

Please contact us at