‘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.