Want More Women in STEM? Give Girls Better Toys.
It's Women’s History Month, which means we get to be even more amped up about women and STEM than we are every other month of the year! (Shame on you if you didn't think that was possible!)
Aaaand thanks to Jacob from the RaceYa pit crew, we've been singing "All the Science Ladies!" to the tune of "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" all day.
Of course, we're not the only ones thinking about all the science ladies this month. Seems like there's always an uptick in articles and editorials about the persistent lack of female representation in science, tech, engineering, and math-related fields. It wasn't all bad, though — we saw some good news about data from LinkedIn that found “more women entered STEM over the past 40 years than any other field.” (Ladies, put your hands up!)
Even more encouraging were several stories spotlighting the importance of gender-neutral play from the get-go. A couple cited a January study published in the journal Sex Roles, which observed the impact of showing 4- to 7-year-old boys and girls images of children playing with either stereotypic or counter-stereotypic toys. Each of the images featured a caption that reinforced either the stereotype or counter-stereotype depicted and which was read to the children as they were shown the image — e.g., “Hello! My name is Thomas, and everyday I like to play with my cars.” or “Hello! My name is Sarah, and my favorite toy is My Little Pony!” or “Hello! My name is Sarah, and everyday I like to play with my cars.”
The kids were then encouraged to pick which toy from a number of traditionally gendered options — a jet fighter, a baby doll, a tea set, and a tool kit — and which playmate from the images — Sarah or Thomas — they preferred to play with. “Results revealed significantly greater gender flexibility around toy play and playmate choices among children in the counter-stereotypic condition compared to the stereotypic condition,” said the study.
We can’t underestimate how important this early childhood moment is when it comes to encouraging all kids to be curious about how the world works. And we can't afford to squander that “gender flexibility” window by failing to give kids in general — but especially girls — more engaging gender-neutral toys.
In case it hasn’t been obvious (or you’re a new visitor to RaceYa World, in which case: Heyyy! 👋 Welcome!), this is why we started RaceYa. And everyday, we're a little bit closer to sharing that with the world.