Toy stories and glass ceilings
We've all been there... Standing in the toyshop, the day before a birthday, staring blankly at shelf after shelf of pink, plastic boxes clearly labelled under the 'toys for girls' category.
And yet, do girls really only want to play with tea sets, dolls or a 'it's girls stuff!' cleaning kit (yes, this is a real toy, and no, we can't believe it either)?
Is it that girls only want to play with these things, or is it that they're told from a young age (by adverts, by society, by their peers) that this is what young girls should do? What about building blocks? Cars? Skateboards? Are we giving our girls the right message about how they should grow and the dreams they should pursue?
Over the last 50 years we have made massive strides in gender equality in the workplace and at home. We've all been told to 'lean in', break through the glass ceiling and balance things out in the boardroom; there are policy debates in educational circles on how we can get more girls in to STEM subjects; and more and more we're seeing professional female athletes representing in the global arena. How is it, then, that we haven't translated that into the toy industry?
Happily, things are starting to change. Around the world campaigns such as Let Toys be Toys in the UK and Play Unlimited in Australia have been successful in getting major retailers to remove 'girls' and 'boys' signs on toy displays. Let children choose what they want to play with, regardless of gender, the campaigners say.
And innovations are starting in the toys themselves. We were excited to see LEGO's range of professional women figures, including a female palaeontologist, an astronomer, and a chemist. A massive step up on their previous girls' range, featuring a bakery, pet salon and juice bar... And, they sold out on the first day. A telling sign that girls are hungry for these kinds of inspirational toys.
A Mighty Girl is another company that wants to challenge gender stereotypes in toys. After spending years trying to find empowering and inspirational books for their four young nieces, books where the girls weren't relegated to the role of sidekick or damsel in distress, the founders have created the world’s largest collection of books, toys, movies, and music dedicated to raising smart, confident, and courageous girls. We love their selection of 'Role Models' books, featuring titles including "Who Says Women Can't be Doctors?" and "The Sky's the Limit: stories of discoveries by women and girls".
The beauty of being a child is that our imagination is unlimited and our curiosity is boundless... why would we ever want to limit that?