Essentialist gendered paradigms argue that there are differences between the traits women and men possess, caused naturally by biological sex. Such principles are often inaccurate and have led to discriminatory attitudes, which is when essentialism becomes potentially damaging. Although what is seen to be ‘suitable’ behaviour for both sexes are often subject to socio-cultural variation dependent on geographical location, what is globally consistent is that gender politics is closely linked to cultural ideologies. This in turn is often tied to certain occupations, such as primary school teaching, being marked for gender and indexed as ‘women’s work’.

Because of essentialist gender stereotyping and the marked linguistic term of ‘primary school teaching’, men feel deterred from entering this occupation, resulting in a shortage of male teachers. This trend is evident in countries worldwide. To change this, such beliefs must be challenged. This chapter aims to tackle stereotypes of essentialist gendered behaviour and discriminatory beliefs about this occupation.

This chapter outlines key empirical findings from the applied discursive analysis of six male and six female teachers’ classroom discourse (over 150 hours of data) using Interactional Sociolinguistics within a social constructionist framework to challenge persistent cognitive representations of the occupation as ‘women’s work’.