I have, in the past, ranted about the gender divide in toys. Go into any toy store and there are shelves and shelves of lego pirate ships, blocks and machines all packaged in blue and featuring boys at play on their boxes. While in the girls aisle – and you can tell it’s the girls aisle because it’s awash with pink – the toys focus on household tasks, telling stories, dressing up and appearance.
Parents often express surprise at my rants and say that this is what the children want, which isn’t true – or at least, it isn’t true for all children.
I’m not the only one who thinks like this, Debbie Stirling, a young engineer has put a year into building a toy to help girls learn a simple technical concept. She’s the founder and CEO of GoldieBlox, here’s her kickstarter pitch.
Like Debbie, the reason for my concern is that I believe it plays out in the workforce and in the jobs we have. The “build” toys promoted for boys encourage spatial skills and problem solving. Exactly the sort of skills needed in many high tech jobs. I am now hiring people born 20 years after me, effectively the next generation. The applicants are more men than women by about 3:1, and those applying with a solid technical background are invariably men.
In my ideal world children would have access to a range of toys, and be able to create their own play. In my ideal world girls and boys would learn “soft skills” through story telling and role-playing or dress up games. And boys and girls would learn spatial skills and technical concepts through building games and toys.
With a young niece I am likely to become one of GoldieBlox’s best customers – I can’t wait to see what they build next.