Could gendered toys be deterring girls from careers in engineering?

The answer may surprise you.

Even with all the recent efforts of the Institution for Engineering and Technology (IET) to encourage more girls to pursue careers in engineering, science and technology. A recent study by the Institution for Engineering and Technology (IET) suggests  that toys based on gender stereotypes could discourage girls from choosing a career in engineering.

The study found that toys with a science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) focus were three times as likely to be targeted at boys than girls. despite high-profile recent campaigns that have had some success, toys for girls are still overwhelmingly pink. The report warns against gender stereotyping of toys with concern it could be discouraging girls from pursuing a career in engineering 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.

So what can we do to ensure that women are well represented across all our industry sectors?

The research shows girls clearly do have an interest in subjects at school so how can we help to translate this into higher numbers of women entering the industry.

Yes, the marketing of toys for girls is a great place to start to change perceptions of the opportunities within engineering. And yes all our industry sectors could and should do more to build a strong, diverse workforce by representing more women in engineering and so on and so forth. However they can only do so much, but everyone of us can do something.  Some believe it is only great powers like governments and industries that can bring about great change, but that is not what we have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary people that bring about great change. Small thoughtful actions of parents and adults in general.

The onus is on us all to think outside the pink and blue boxes when shopping for children’s toys. Retailers and search engines also have a responsibility not to perpetuate gender stereotypes, but we can all start making small changes that make an important difference right now.  So let’s make the changes and take the steps to empowering women in the workplace.

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