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How Toy Stores are Failing Women

Consider the last time you walked down a toy aisle. You probably could guess which toys were targeted for girls and which ones were targeted for boys. Maybe you saw pink aisles filled with princesses, fairies, dolls and crafts, while the blue aisles had superhero action figures and building sets.

Itís striking how gender segregated play has become.

One store's not-so-subtle suggestion that Barbies and pink toys are for girls.

Image credit: janetmck via Flickr

Organizations like Let Toys Be Toys are campaigning to stop the retail practice of labeling toys by gender, so that kids can self-identify whichever toys they like — and for good reason. Gender-specific toys not only contribute to gender stereotypes but they can also negatively impact females, as girls may be limiting their play to more passive toys (think dolls, fairies, stuffed animals). Four-year-old Riley described the issue well in her rant on toy marketing (see video above).

A category of particular concern is construction toys (also known as building sets). This is the fastest growing category in the industry, yet historically 90 percent of the themes, play patterns and marketing of these toys have targeted boys. Construction toys develop important spatial reasoning, design, and problem solving skills that are prerequisites to succeed in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). These are fields in which women make up only 24 percent of the workforce, leading to what president Obama has termed a “Gender Gap in Innovation.”

A new breed of female-led start-ups believe toys can make a difference.†Goldie Bloxís engineering toy for girls debuted last year on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter, and now the brand new company†Build & Imagine is following suit with a†kickstarter campaign to raise support for their line of illustrated magnetic building sets.

Construction toys help develop important problem solving skills and spatial reasoning. The new female-led company Build & Imagine helps make building toys more accessible to girls.

Do you think these new companies will help give girls a leg up in STEM? Comment below.

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Megan Zehnder

Megan is an editor and producer for Care2's Healthy Living. Her main priorities are to live simply and build meaningful relationships with the people in her life. She loves to write and talk about environmental issues, healthy living, and women's rights. Beyond that, her interests change daily, but eating and cooking vegetarian food is always a favorite.


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6:25AM PDT on Jul 23, 2015

Thank you

11:02PM PDT on Jul 21, 2015

Thanks for posting.

2:38AM PDT on May 22, 2015

Interesting, but when we were kids, we spent the majority of our time outside and while we had some toys, the great outdoors was our playground. Strange to know that there are still endless stereotypical toy colours, etc.

7:42AM PDT on Mar 10, 2015

What about toy anteaters made of plush?

2:25AM PST on Dec 5, 2014


4:48AM PST on Nov 20, 2014

Thank you :)

9:08PM PDT on Jul 7, 2014

I suppose it never bothered me to play with either "boy" or "girl" toys, though I think the divide between pink and blue with nothing in between has gotten much worse since I was a kid.

11:10AM PDT on Jul 5, 2014

Overthinking, again.

4:52AM PDT on May 18, 2014


1:00PM PDT on May 16, 2014

We had our own son in 1977.I didn't drive yet so we would go to Toys R Us.If he was asleep,I would run in and buy a few things I knew he'd like. If he was awake we would walk down the aisles and ask he to point out things that he liked.Then we'd hold up a variety of the same thing till we found the one we thought he liked the most. He picked a baby doll in a green dress . I put it in the cart and stuck something on top of it. He forgot it quickly .We did the shopping in October so there was a lot of time for him to forget our trip "to Santa's workshop." and that's we got around what he really wanted.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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