We consider the extent to which societal shifts have been responsible for an increased tendency for females to sort into traditional male roles over time, versus childhood factors. Drawing on three cohort studies, which follow individuals born in the UK in 1958, 1970 and 2000, we compare the magnitude of the shift in the tendency of females in these cohorts to sort into traditionally male roles as compared to males, to the combined effect of a set of childhood variables. For all three cohorts we find strong evidence of sorting along gendered lines which has decreased substantively over time. We also find that there has been no erosion of the gender gap in the tendency to sort into occupations with the highest share of males. Within cohort, we find little evidence that childhood variables change the tendency for either the average or highest ability female to sort substantively differently. Our work underlines the importance of societal shifts, over and above childhood variables, in determining the sorting patterns we have seen over the last number of decades, and also those that remain today.