I just heard today about a young man who had given up on his dream of becoming a primary teacher as even though he is gifted with the children etc, he was not being encouraged and was continually being placed from college into schools with only a female staff. That is not easy for a young sporty man, and eventually he ran out of "small talk". The chatter in the staff room of our local school would have been a nightmare for me as a woman, let alone for a young man.
And yet we desperately need more men in our primary schools. Whenever my sons had a male teacher, he was just "the best" ! But our school never seemed to be able to hold onto them. They moved abroad or were snapped up by other schools. And meanwhile the women teachers (prepare for bitchy comment ...) seemed to just out-compete each other on how high a heel they could walk on !! Not great for active teaching and learning in the classroom !! Well they didn't quite all do this but there was a bit of a tendency among some.
I myself worked in science related jobs and IT among mostly men. There would be an occasional other woman/girl to have a chat to, but they tended to work in the department offices and sensibly didn't venture out into the wider department. So it's not easy being a girl in a man's world. Even when most of them "behave". I have to say that most of the ones I worked with were fine. There was the occasional older man with his sexist comment about women working or women's driving etc. but most were fine. But another problem is just that perception that if the job you do is normally done by a man, then if you come along as a woman then you almost have to first prove that you can do the job, before things go any further. The same does happen for the man who is assumed to be able to do it even though he may well not be as good as the women, but he fits the stereotype.
And a family member works in a factory environment and he reports that the roles are almost 100% either male or female eg only men in the factory, only women in reception, even though there is absolutely no reason why men or women couldn't do either role. But...once there is a complete male workforce or female workforce it is hard for the opposite sex to break into that environment.
And I have a feeling that in some circumstances it just might not be wise either if not downright unsafe for a woman to work in an all male environment in certain areas. And vice versa, but I would love if people could prove me wrong on that one and dispel my suspicions.
But these are barriers and big ones. To me they seem much bigger than programmes such as Woman's Hour's pre-occupation with getting so called "equality" on boards of companies. Maybe it would be better to start at the grassroots. At least support women or men who are working in an environment where they are just "one among many".
Because I know for me there are a few jobs I'd have maybe have liked to have a go at, but I am put off by the fact its either all male or all female typically.
Oh and another problem is environments where its all young folk working, then these are very hard for older workers to see themselves working in them, and yet the older worker might well be far more ideal for the job.
So lets start seeing some real moves towards equality - not towards unrealistic targets but supporting the brave souls who want to break the mould !