Breaking down gender stereotypes

Library Home  >  Diversity and Inclusion
  Published on Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Breaking down gender stereotypes

Library Home  >  Diversity and Inclusion
  Published on Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Boys like trucks, girls like princesses, right? While this may be true in a lot of cases (I know my two-and-a-half-year-old son is obsessed with trucks of all kinds) it seems that these outdated stereotypes have been holding us back from inspiring our children in their early years with the idea that they can do more and be more than society currently assumes. 

Michael McGee, Griffith Business School alumnus and father of three young girls, certainly thought so. When looking around for inspiring literature for his smart, driven daughters who were interested in space exploration, he was disappointed to find that most of the kids’ books aimed at little girls expected them to be passive, pretty princesses rather than active explorers, adventurers or engineers.

In an effort to change this, McGee co-founded the She Dreams Big project, alongside Rachael McGee and Louise Brown, and the brand was launched on March 5, 2021 at the International Women’s Day Long Lunch.

Designed to encourage more active characteristics in young girls, She Dreams Big has been kickstarted with a series of books that “provide an inspirational narrative of adventure, fun, risk taking, leadership, and teamwork,” according to the website. “We aim to challenge traditional gender roles and to inspire young girls to Dream Big of Adventures Far and Wide.”

So far, the titles in the series include She Dreams Big: In Space, in honour of McGee’s daughters, She Dreams Big: In the City, and She Dreams Big: By the Bay. The books are written by another Griffith alumnus Rachael McGee and illustrated by Queensland College of Art graduate Cody Wood.

“We wanted to keep it playful, fun and not super girly. It was all about breaking down those biases. It was rewarding getting to explore these characters and bring them to life across a whole series of adventures,” Wood says of the series.

The books follow a group of five young girls on their imaginative adventures, where they picture futures in careers that women are currently underrepresented in, such as mechanics, architectural engineers and pilots.

The girls imagine themselves saving humankind from comets on a collision course with the Earth, designing buildings in the big city and rescuing lost marine life out at sea.  

The She Dreams Big project is being promoted by women in inspiring careers, including journalist Sandra Sully, Paralympic triathlete Lauren Parker and Olympic swimmer Cate Campbell.

Sully’s quote “Girls can’t be what they can’t see," sums up the premise behind the book series, which is to show young girls what they can achieve and inspire them to become anything and everything they dream of.

Leadership, risk-taking and problem-solving are all encouraged through the actions of each story’s characters, such as when Isla imagines herself as the Mayor in She Dreams Big: In the City, or when Uma dreams that she is building a missile to destroy the comet heading for Earth in She Dreams Big: In Space.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the books is being donated to Room to Read, an international charity that aims to improve literacy and gender equality for children and education systems around the world.

The charity works in underprivileged and low-income communities in countries including South Africa, Bangladesh and Tanzania, promoting initiatives to increase reading programs in primary schools, and supporting girls to help them complete high school, when their education opportunities may otherwise be limited, and help to increase their life skills for a more promising future after school.  

While these books are intended to inspire young girls to achieve their dreams, they are also a useful tool to help build positive ideas of gender equality in the minds of young boys and are therefore a great option to have on hand for storytime.

Reading the books aloud could be a great lead-in to an activity where all of the children either tell stories, draw pictures or make models of what they would like to do or be one day.

Even if right now they dream of being a puppy or a dinosaur when they grow up, the association will be made in their minds that dreams are not informed or limited by gender, and boys and girls can do and be whatever they want, they only have to dream it first.

If you’re interested in finding more books that feature strong female leads for the same purpose, we put together a list of 10 children’s books with strong female protagonists that might give you some ideas.

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Thursday, 13 May 2021