Gendered toys could deter girls from career in engineering, report says

Dec 8, 2016 by

Insitution for Engineering and Technology found toys with a technology focus were three times as likely to be targeted at boys

One of the world’s largest engineering institutions is warning against gender stereotyping of toys in the run-up to Christmas amid concern it could be discouraging girls from pursuing a career in engineering and technology.

Research by the Institution for Engineering and Technology (IET) found that toys with a science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) focus were three times as likely to be targeted at boys than girls. And despite high-profile recent campaigns that have had some success, toys for girls are still overwhelmingly pink.

The IET’s mission is to encourage more girls to pursue careers in engineering, science and technology. Latest figures show women account for just 9% of engineers in the UK, despite enthusiasm among girls at primary school for information and communications technology (ICT) and computing (according to recent IET research, 39% say they enjoy it), maths (38%) and science (36%).

“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,” the IET warned.

“Whilst the onus is on the parents to think outside the pink and blue boxes when shopping for their children, toy retailers and search engines also have a responsibility not to perpetuate gender stereotypes. Search engines in particular could look at introducing ways of detecting patterns of gender bias.”

IET analysis of leading search engines and toy retailers’ websites found that of the Stem toys on offer, 31% were listed for boys compared with just 11% for girls. A search using the terms “boys’ toys” and “girls’ toys” found nine out of ten (89%) toys listed for girls were pink, compared with 1% for boys.

Mamta Singhal, a toy engineer and IET spokeswoman, said she had traditional “girls’ toys” as a child but also loved playing with cars, building blocks and creative kits. “The research shows girls clearly do have an interest in science, technology and engineering subjects at school so we need to find ways to help this to translate into a higher number of women entering the industry.

“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.

Source: Gendered toys could deter girls from career in engineering, report says | Life and style | The Guardian

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