Zero Tolerance

Case study

Gender inequality is a root cause of violence against women and girls and it starts with gender stereotyping in the Early Years. We know that outdated gender stereotypes remain common in our society and the lack of awareness about how to challenge these harmful patterns is a fundamental obstacle to providing Scottish children with an equal start in life.

Evidence shows that levels of violence against women are higher in societies, communities and relationships where there are more rigid distinctions between the roles of men and women.[1]

This is why in February 2019 Zero Tolerance launched #TalkingGender – Anyone Can Play Campaign to equip and encourage you to challenge rigid and harmful gender stereotypes.

The aim of #TalkingGender – Anyone Can Play was to encourage the idea that everyone can play their part in promoting gender equality from birth. Together we can tackle gender inequality to create a much needed culture change to allow all children to be whoever they want to be without being limited by harmful gender stereotypes.

It all starts with a conversation…so start #TalkingGender

The project aimed to encourage people to start having conversations about gender equality – even though they can sometimes be tricky.

To help with this we prepared a range of helpful resources, packed with evidence and conversation starters and including:

–       tips for avoiding gender stereotypes when interacting with children

–       responses to the common questions and myths

–       #AnyoneCanPlay posters to display at home, at work, or to give to a local nursery

–       Interesting blogs on being a feminist mum to boys and gender friendly baby showers

We worked with the Care Inspectorate to produce Gender Equal Play in Early Learning and Childcare, a resource to help early years educators enhance gender equality for children across all early learning and childcare settings. The resource is also helpful for parents.

We know that stereotypes are extremely harmful to all children.

The BBC documentary ‘No More Boys and Girls’ showed us that children learn from a very young age about what is ‘normal’ for boys and girls. These gender stereotypes put pressure on boys and girls to make their behaviour, likes, dislikes and expectations conform and fit in to these assumptions. This leads to limitations, discrimination, and inequality. It can affect long-term confidence, opportunity, achievement, health, relationships, safety and more.

We know that there is an appetite for change.

In 2016, Zero Tolerance undertook a survey of over 1,300 Scottish parents on gender stereotyping in the early years. This research found that nine out of ten parents agreed that it was important to treat boys and girls the same in early childhood.[2]

We know we all need to be aware of our own bias.

In an experiment, adult participants were shown a video of a baby kicking and rolling about in a cot. One group of participants saw the baby dressed in pink and the other group saw exactly the same baby dressed in blue. The baby’s movements were identical for the two groups. When asked to describe what they saw, the group of participants who watched the baby dressed in pink described the infant as delicate and graceful, while those who saw the baby dressed in blue described the same movements as more vigorous, with some even going as far as to suggest that the baby would become a champion footballer! [3]

We know we can start preventing violence against women by #TalkingGender

If you agree that gender stereotypes are harmful to children, then join the movement for change!

  1. Start Talking Gender– use our guides to have conversations with family, friends, nurseries, and teachers, about the harms of gender stereotypes on children
  2. Download and print out our #AnyoneCanPlay posters and display them at home, at work, or give them to your child’s nursery. Or contact and we will post them to you.
  3. Download Gender Equal Play in Early Learning and Childcare
  4. Like, comment, and share our campaign posts on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram to get more people #TalkingGender
  5. Donate – Help Zero Tolerance continue to lead work in primary prevention of men’s violence against women, through tackling gender inequality

For more information, visit: and

[1] Why Do Some Men Use Violence Against Women and How Can We Prevent It, UN Partners for Prevention, 2013:

[2] 3 The Default Setting: what parents say about gender stereotyping in their children’s early years, Zero Tolerance, Edinburgh, 2016.

[3] A Unique Child: Cognitive Development – Boys and girls, Kyra Karmiloff and Annette Karmiloff-Smith, 2011