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.
It’s striking how gender segregated play has become.
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 Blox’s 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.
Do you think these new companies will help give girls a leg up in STEM? Comment below.