Gender representation in contemporary Grade 10 Business Studies textbooks

Date: September 23, 2013
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Since 2009 the textbook has emerged as a key educational resource in South African classrooms. This has been a direct response to rapid curriculum change, and real and perceived inadequacies in teacher content and pedagogic knowledge. Of significance though is that there is limited understanding of the nature of content selections that textbook authors invoke and the subtext thereof. The purpose of this study therefore is to understand how gender is represented in Business Studies textbooks available to teachers and pupils in the Further Education and Training (FET) band in South African classrooms. This qualitative study is located in the critical paradigm and engaged the tenets of Critical Discourse Analysis as the key analytical frame. A purposive sample of two contemporary Business Studies textbooks was selected to investigate the phenomenon of gender representation. Findings reveal that stereotypes of women and men are reinforced in the selected textbooks under study. Women were shown more frequently in home settings than were men. Men were shown in a wider variety of occupational roles than women. Textbooks portrayed men in a wide range of highly-paid, high-status occupations such as managing directors, doctors, lawyers etc. In both texts more males have been represented in leadership positions in government, economic and corporate institutions. The textbooks further represented women as being disabled and destitute. Males were portrayed as confident and educated in the usage of technology while women were portrayed as illiterate. Additionally men were portrayed as assertive and forthright business individuals, while women were also portrayed as emotional and as more reliant on, or needing, the advice of men to deal with business-related issues. Finally, the portrayal of firstness presented the male pronoun first in sentences and conversation as opposed to the female pronoun. The findings indicate that representations in the textbooks are gender-biased and gender-insensitive. Of concern is that these representations may be transmitted to school learners. A critical approach to the selection and use of textbooks is thus necessary. Much work needs to be done by key role players in the educational sectors to ensure that gender inclusivity becomes a feature of South African Business Studies textbooks.

Publisher: University of KwaZulu Natal
Year of Publication: 2013

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