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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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen2 years ago

Thank you

Carole R.
Carole R2 years ago

Thanks for posting.

DaleLovesOttawa O.

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.

Anteater Ants
Anteater Ants2 years ago

What about toy anteaters made of plush?

Jonathan Harper
Jonathan H3 years ago


Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you :)

Carol P.
Carol P3 years ago

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.

Mary Cromley
.3 years ago

Overthinking, again.

Val M.
Val M3 years ago


Helga Ganguly
Helga Ganguly3 years ago

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.