Dolls are for girls and Lego is for boys

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When we were younger we all had naive ideals of what we wanted to be when we grew up; Astronaut, Famous Footballer, Cowboy or Fairy Princess. As we got older our dreams would probably change slightly to; Doctor, Engineer, Policeman or Scientist. But how much were our decisions affected by the stereotypical environment we grew up in and the toys we were given to play with; dolls are for girls and Lego for boys.

Gender role diversity can start very early on from the toys our children are given to the widely dispersed perception that pink is for girls and blue for boys. Hamley’s store in London has separate floors for girls and boys the girls being pink and the boys decked out in blue. This has a deep impact later on when it comes to choosing what career path they wish to take.

From a very early age girls are given dolls and all things pink which steers them towards caring and nurturing roles whilst boys are given video games and Lego which leads them towards action and technological roles.

Very few girls choose STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) roles. A new study Drawing the Future, released in January 2018 showed four times as many boys than girls wanted to become engineers, whilst twice as many boys as girls would choose science. Meanwhile, girls were four times as likely to become vets and twice and likely to become doctors. A recent study has shown that less than 9% of women are in the engineering workforce.

A new report by the Careers and Enterprise Company, ‘Closing the Gender Gap’, has found that “gendered stereotypes” still determine the occupational choices of young women.

The study of 2,000 young people found that women are much more likely to go into care-related jobs such as nursing or teaching, while men are more likely to opt for IT or engineering type jobs. Today there are few women bricklayers and even fewer male beauty therapists!

Meanwhile the BBC has also been looking into this issue, recently airing a programme that looked into ways to strip the gender stereotypes in children with a few key changes in how they are spoken to and what toys they are given to play with. Doctor Javid Abdelmoneim took over one Year 3 class on the Isle of Wight. He spent six weeks applying a ‘gender neutral’ treatment hoping to even out the ‘gaps’ in their achievement ranging from self-confidence to spatial awareness.

In the first episode, the class of seven year-olds are tested across a range of important psychological measures. Doctor Javid was shocked by the results, which were enough to convince class teacher Mr Andre to eradicate from the classroom anything that reinforces the idea that boys and girls are fundamentally different; from the books they read, to the way he speaks to them. The children meet a group of professionals who challenge their ideas about what jobs men and women can do, and later take part in a game designed to test their strength and their expectations of what they can achieve.