Traditional stereotypes still shape girls' choices and opportunities and education, training and employment, the report - "Gender Equality and the Career Service" - for the Equal Opportunities Commission found.
The privatised careers service came under fire for failing to redress the balance between boys and girls. Even initiatives such as the Modern Apprenticeship scheme showed big differences in the jobs taken by young men and women.
Some 67 per cent of information technology apprenticeships and 96 per cent of engineering places were taken by young men with average weekly salaries of pounds 140 and pounds 115, but 80 per cent of those in business administration and 92 per cent in hairdressing were taken by women, where the average wage was pounds 107 and pounds 62 respectively.
The prevailing view seemed to be "send a lad for the yard and a nice young thing for reception," the researchers said.
While parents, schools, peers and managers were taken to task for reinforcing stereotypes, the careers service had a critical part to play in influencing young people, according to the study.
Julie Mellor, chair of the commission, said equal opportunities had not been given a high profile by the careers service, but it was now in a position to make a real difference.Reuse content