Back to the drawing board?

According to research by the Institution for Engineering and Technology (IET), toys with a STEM focus are three times as likely to be targeted at boys as for girls. Worse still, despite a number of high profile campaigns – including the brilliantly simple ‘Let Toys Be Toys’ – toys listed for girls are still overwhelmingly pink.

In the run up to Christmas, the IET are warning against gender stereotypes in toys amid concern that it could be discouraging girls from pursuing a career in engineering and technology. As women account for just 9% of engineers in the UK, this is an important message, but the future needn’t be bleak.

As educators of over 20,000 girls, we know only too well (as will any parent of a daughter) that their preferences go way beyond dolls and dressing up. Cars, building blocks and diggers – all traditionally viewed as toys for boys – can all inspire girls to think more creatively, beyond the confines of their immediate environment.

If that enthusiasm is cultivated in the classroom, girls will soon find that there are myriad opportunities awaiting them in a number of highly rewarding fields, doing jobs where they can immediately see the impact of their vision.

If schools and parents are playing their part, it’s only fair that the marketing companies follow suit. Rather than steadfastly pointing girls and boys in different directions when it comes to play, acknowledging that inquisitiveness and imagination are not gender-specific could lead everyone, boys and girls, down a less stereotypical path.