Australian toy stores could be ditching “gender neutral” toys to reduce the impact of “harmful and outdated stereotypes” on young girls.
California has become the first US state to enforce retailers to display toys in gender-neutral ways with a “reasonable selection” of items.
Professor Laura Scholes from Australian Catholic University is backing the move saying that gendered toys and products is dissuading young girls from pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
In a study conducted by the Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education Associate Professor, Professor Scholes asked hundreds of young children what they wanted to be when they grow up and why.
She explained, “The main finding was the occupations kids are aspiring to haven’t really changed in the last 20 years – boys are still wanting to be professional sportspeople, STEM-related jobs, police or military. Girls still want to be teachers, work with animals, the arts.”
It is children’s toys that reinforce these pathways as they are marketed to different genders.
“These stereotypes aren’t being challenged and they’re happening before kids get to school,” she told news.com.au.
“That’s why gender-neutral toys are so important, because once they get to school it’s too late.”
She added, “I think we can do more in Australia, which has a history of hyper-masculine boyhood where boys have to be boys and play sports, and girls are expected to (conform to traditional gender roles).”
The news comes one week after Lego vowed to remove ‘gender bias’ and ‘harmful stereotypes’ from its products.