Watch a few minutes of adverts during children's TV programmes and you'll notice the gender divide in toys and the way they are advertised. But did you realise that the split extends to muscial instruments as well? A recent study in the International Journal of Music Education reports that learning musical instruments is strictly divided along gender lines. 90% of harpists and 89% of flautists are girls, while 81% of guitarists and 75% of drummers are boys.
The study wonders whether physical interaction with an instrument dictates who might want to play it - do boys like to play things that they can hit?! - and the level of skill and practice required. In keeping with girls outperforming boys overall, more girls learn musical instruments anyway, are more likely to do music exams and to get good grades. And it recommends that schools set up single-gender orchestras or ensembles to make pupils play different instruments. Article in the Guardian about it here
Does it matter? In one sense, no. We don't have to be the same as each other, and if one way that men and women are different is expressed in the innstruments that we play that's fine! But I think I'd want to ask questions about why boys and girls are making these choices. Is it because of role models? Or because girls think that it's more feminine to to play the flute rather than the electric guitar?
And I'm not convinced that single gender orchestras are any kind of solution. That may seem hypocritical from someone who has set up a network for women, but our aim is to be a catalyst for discussion and change to enable men and women to work better together, rather than setting up a separate ghetto for women.