The Institution for Engineering and Technology, UK, has found that toys with STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) focus were three time more likely to be targeted at boys than at girls. Toys targeted at girls are also mostly pink in colour, the study found.
The report also said that only 9 per cent of engineers in the UK are women. The report analysed search engines and toy retailers’ websites and found that out of the science-based toys on offer, 31 per cent were specifically aimed at boys, while only 11 per cent of science-based toys were targeted towards girls.
“Societal stereotypes driving these gendered listings could be having a knock-on effect for the next generation of engineers, especially girls, impacting their future career choices,” said the report
Research shows that girls have a lot of interest in the STEM subjects at school, but are not necessarily translating their interests into STEM-related careers, the report stated.
Mamta Singhal, toy engineer and IET spokeswoman, said “The marketing of toys for girls is a great place to start to change perceptions of the opportunities within engineering. The toy options for girls should go beyond dolls and dress-up so we can cultivate their enthusiasm and inspire them to grow up to become engineers.”
So when did gender-based toys come about? Fashion historian Jo B Paoletti says in her book Pink and Blue: Telling the Boys from the Girls in America, that the gender segregation for children’s toy is a recent phenomenon and is a marketing gimmick. There was no attempt to signal a child’s gender in the Victorian era.
Last year, a study conducted by the Podar Education Network and the Early Childhood Association found that 85 per cent of toy stores in Mumbai displayed toys on the basis of gender.
Gendered toys limit children’s interests and it’s time we stopped telling children that blue is for boys and pink is for girls.