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Girls in Technology

By 16 May 2014 14

tech-girls-a

‘Tech Girls are Superheroes’ was launched at the ANU today. A program for school aged kids, using cartoon characters to encourage girls into careers in IT. 

I think it’s kind of cool, but ‘they’re still trying to attract girls into Technology?’  I could kind of understand that it was something requiring specific campaigning 20 years ago.  But, we now have a whole new generation of women coming through schools.  Why are they still not naturally being drawn into technology, or science, or engineering – or whatever the hell they fancy doing with their lives?

But, of course I see the answer every day and I blame pink lego.  Well, not pink lego bricks themselves, but the gender branding of lego and numerous other toys - a separate package (and indeed contents) for girls and boys.  The boys get a blue box filled with the usual ‘bits’ plus trucks and tractors and farm stuff.  The girls get a pink box with princesses and ponies included with their usual bricks.  It’s not just lego.  Shops perpetuate what many of the big toy sellers have started.  Toys are no longer just toys, but separated into ‘boys’ toys and ‘girls’ toys.

When I suggested a kids building set (all the bits you can attach together with a tool of sorts) to someone for my daughter’s birthday present (after being asked for my input of course), did she receive that?  Hell no, she was given plastic high heeled shoes instead. 

 Whilst I am glad we are still hammering away at encouraging girls into male dominated careers, I think we maybe need to take another look at where the problem really lays.  Kid’s toys need to become more gender neutral.  My girls have become very attuned to the whole ‘pink is for girls, blue is for boys’ message, which I don’t think for a minute I am going to reverse in any way and only hope the vast quantities of pink on my washing line will diminish over time .  They don’t need their toys packaged in pink or blue to signal to them what is for girls (kitchen stuff, princesses, dolls etc etc.) and what is for boys (building blocks, engineering sets etc etc.).  Maybe if our girls played with more interesting, stimulating toys as little people, they would grow to have a passion and interest in these things as teenagers making choices in higher education.

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14 Responses to Girls in Technology
#1
harvyk13:07 am, 17 May 14

Well, since this has gone on a tanget about girls toys vs boys toys, we have brought girl toys, boy toys and gender neutral toys for our kids, and yes whilst there is “girl lego” in there, both my daughters love playing with the normal blocks.

Onto IT, there are certainly women in IT and sciences, but for some reason it tends to have males drawn to it, likewise women tend to do the more human type jobs, eg nursing and teaching.

#2
switch9:27 am, 17 May 14

Girls have long since figured out there are no high paying jobs in science.

#3
milkman10:30 am, 17 May 14

Kid’s toys need to become more gender neutral.

No they don’t. Being a kid is confusing enough as it is without pysch-wannabes meddling. There are toys that are gender specific, and toys that aren’t. Kids generally play with some of each.

#4
Maya12310:45 am, 17 May 14

Recently I was at an event and handing out Easter eggs to children. These were wrapped in plain single colours. I was being gender neutral by reaching into the bag and pulling out and handing to the child whatever colour I put my hand on. This was okay for most children and none complained. However one family walked up to me with two children; a girl and boy, and the boy immediately demanded a blue egg. I handed him one. Then after I randomly handed his sister an egg she handed it back and demanded a pink egg. I complied and said nothing, but I did glance at their parents wondering what in their parenting style had prompted their children to be so gender specific in their choice of colour, and why the parents did this? I actually felt sorry for the children.

#5
Maya12310:46 am, 17 May 14

switch said :

Girls have long since figured out there are no high paying jobs in science.

I take it you haven’t been inside many labs lately.

#6
justin heywood11:45 am, 17 May 14

switch said :

Girls have long since figured out there are no high paying jobs in science.

…and wise people have long since figured that a ‘high paying’ job is not necessarily the key to a happy, fulfilling life

Maya123 said :

….. wondering what in their parenting style had prompted their children to be so gender specific in their choice of colour, and why the parents did this? I actually felt sorry for the children.

You made a judgement on their parenting skills based on the boy’s preference for blue? I bet you’re not a parent (not that that ever stopped anyone declaring themselves ‘expert’ at raising children).

I was an expert parent too until I had my own. Now, I make no judgements at all – every child comes out different and there’s only so much you can do.

Every parent already knows the answer to the nature versus nurture argument.

#7
Maya12312:04 pm, 17 May 14

milkman said :

Being a kid is confusing enough as it is without pysch-wannabes meddling.

Correct, so why play mind games by labelling some toys for boys and some for girls? To use your term “pysch-wannabes meddling” in deciding what toys are suitable for girls and what are suitable for boys. Mix all the toys up, don’t label them and let children choose what interests them. Don’t be “pysch-wannabes meddling” and steering boys and girls to different parts of the toy section, and deciding for the children what they should or should not play with depending on their sex.

#8
thatsnotme12:46 pm, 17 May 14

Different toys for boys and girls,especially when it comes to things like Lego, is nothing more sinister that the manufacturer realising they make more money that way. Analyse it all you want, nothing will ever change while parents pay for these gender targeted toys. The only effective way to force a change is to refuse to buy them if the concept bothers you.

#9
morethanmumma2:54 pm, 17 May 14

My point is less about the pink and blue – although this drives me crazy, I have found it much harder to avoid in the cold light of parenting reality and frankly it’s a fight that is down my line of priorities. If my girls prefer something in pink so be it. What gets to me is that by being gender specific in the packaging and marketing (and indeed placement – many toystores have separate aisles for girls and boys) kids almost have decisions on what they’re interested in made for them.

Linking that to girls entering STEM careers, I can’t help but wonder if they would perhaps be more interested if they were encouraged to play with the engineering, building, modelling, science style toys and kits that generally end up in the ‘boys section’ of toy stores. Instead they seem to be encouraged to learn to cook and take care of babies.

I would really like to see toys just sold as toys – for kids. There are very few (if any that I can think of) that are at their core gender specific.

There is a great ad for ‘Goldiblox’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIGyVa5Xftw&list=TL-nGArWDzmLKgm3mwUyVvcNPlzc-PtGw0. A great concept – but I can’t help but wish we didn’t need these kind of toys ‘specifically for girls’.

#10
wildturkeycanoe6:39 pm, 17 May 14

Has anyone noticed that if you put together a Lego person with a helmet or short black hair, they are male and if you put a brown long wavy hairpiece on they become female. The body and head is the same. If you put a single square block on their shoulders, they become a politically correct drongo. How far do we need to argue the point on things like this. Next we’ll need gender neutral Lego, tattooed Lego, amputee lego people with little wheelchairs, gay and lesbian Lego, Chinese, African, Indian and South American Lego faces. Where does it all end. There are already news articles that say Lego characters are too angry looking. God, have you seen some of the little dolls for girls on sale today? Their faces almost need a M15+ rating. They are just toys and if parents don’t think they are suitable for their own kids, don’t buy them!

#11
Maya1236:55 pm, 17 May 14

justin heywood said :

switch said :

Girls have long since figured out there are no high paying jobs in science.

…and wise people have long since figured that a ‘high paying’ job is not necessarily the key to a happy, fulfilling life

Maya123 said :

….. wondering what in their parenting style had prompted their children to be so gender specific in their choice of colour, and why the parents did this? I actually felt sorry for the children.

You made a judgement on their parenting skills based on the boy’s preference for blue? I bet you’re not a parent (not that that ever stopped anyone declaring themselves ‘expert’ at raising children).

I was an expert parent too until I had my own. Now, I make no judgements at all – every child comes out different and there’s only so much you can do.

Every parent already knows the answer to the nature versus nurture argument.

It wasn’t just the boy demanding blue. His sister also wanted pink. Both children were very adamant in the colours they wanted, rejecting the colours they were handed. The boy demanded blue and the girl pink. There is nothing wrong with pink or blue, but it seemed strange both these children came from the one family and were so gender orientated in their colour choices. (No other child rejected the colour I handed them; only the two from the same family.) I wondered how gender orientated their other choices were, and whether they were their choices or were steered that way by their parents, rather like some neighbours I once had would steer their children. They told me that girls must not do some things because it would damage them. They had strong ideas they forced on their children re colours, etc. Yes there are parents like that, restricting their children’s’ choices. One reacts (or has silent thoughts) as per one’s experiences. Those particular parents I mentioned might not force gender rolls on their children, but after those neighbours I once had, it made me wonder.

#12
Kalliste10:09 pm, 17 May 14

It doesn’t really seem like it should be the toy manufacturers or store’s responsibility to encourage girls to get into STEM fields. They’re making decisions based on what gets the most of amount of sales not what is best for the consumer, the responsibility really lies on the parents to provide their kids with all options.

I have no issue with schools running programs like this and encouraging girls into these fields. As someone that works in IT I can definitely say it is still very male dominated and most women seem to lean towards management roles rather than more technical roles.

I definitely think the schools can and should help out in promoting STEM careers to kids and parents.

#13
switch9:01 am, 18 May 14

Kalliste said :

I definitely think the schools can and should help out in promoting STEM careers to kids and parents.

Judging by the responses here, the problem is easily fixed merely by selling blue lego blocks to girls…

#14
Masquara10:29 am, 18 May 14

We hear heaps about approaches in schools aimed at building resilience in children – I think parents need school and other other support to be able to stick to their values. The “friend” who gave your daughter high-heeled plastic shoes in the face of your request for a building set shouldn’t have done that. You are entitled to say to your daughter (in front of the friend, because she was going against your request) “Thank you for the lovely thought but, sorry, I’ll put this present away for now” and explain to your daughter later why doesn’t fit with your values. You should be able to resist shops – you control the money! I doubt whether Denmark has all-gendered lego for its schoolkids. Talk to your child’s school and see about getting some active contradiction to thoughtless marketing happening there – I’m sure teachers would be happy to participate.

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