Despite Industry Awareness, Toys Still Gender-Skewed

Boy_girl_symbols At the recent “Building Our Future” toy conference held in New York City, my company, USA Toy Experts along with Women in Toys hosted some of the most insightful toy experts in the industry. There were seven PhD’s (two of whom were professors) as well as participants from the disciplines of research, academia, the media, virtual worlds, virtual games, retail and manufacturing.  We had a television celebrity, a noted author and three individuals who at one time worked on Bratz, American Girl and Barbie.  In short, we had gathered an incredibly diverse and high octane group of people.

We wanted to get their thoughts and opinions on what they thought about the industry and how toys are developed and marketed for girls, and their impact on a girls’ decision making later on in life.  In order to help us find out, we provided them with a survey to fill out.  Here is what we found:

With a resounding yes!, a majority of the conference participants – 96 percent – agreed that math and science toys can improve a child’s educational success. We’re talking chemistry kits, build-your-own-volcano kits and more. On the other hand, a full 78 percent believed that these math and science toys just aren’t being developed and marketed towards girls.

Largegender_symbols While the majority agreed that math and science toys can improve a child’s educational success, the participants were divided evenly on whether the same toys had an effect on a child’s earning potential in adult life. Although participants were evenly divided on earning power, a majority, 59.1%, believed that the toys children play with have an impact on their eventual career choices.

Color matters: 83 percent believed that the packaging and color scheme of a toy will affect the likelihood that a child’s will play with a particular toy, and 87.5 percent felt that a pink toy will more likely appeal to a girl, thus the proliferation of pink girls’ toys.

Could it be that management is influencing toy development and marketing? 70 percent felt that because senior management in management companies is predominantly male, there is likely the male perception of what girl’s want that predominates decision making about toy selection and marketing.

While the participants saw a lack of science and math products for girls, they also saw a scarcity of products that emphasize nurturing in boys.  Of the thought leaders at the conference, 74 percent believed that playing with toys that foster nurturing as a child can impact one’s ability to be a parent or caregiver in life. Additionally, 83 percent thought that there was an absence of toys that foster nurturing for boys.

Based upon the results of the survey, one could well surmise that there is a need to increase gender neutrality in products that teach math, science and nurturing. How that can be done and be economically viable is another question all together.



2 thoughts

  1. Thanks for opening the conversation to a more open approach. We live in aworld that does not always allow for gender bias.

  2. Hi Richard,
    The conference on Girls and Toys genrated a lot of excellent dialogue, as well as debate. I love how you bring different people together whether in a conference or on your blog.
    As to the title of this post: I say AMEN! to the fact that toys are still gender skewed because most play is gender-based. Girls and boys play differently after the age of 2 and while there are still areas of common ground for boys and girls play (play involving exploration and mastery for example), most imaginative play is gender-based. Not surprisingly, the industry has taken notice and has responded appropriately.
    Nancy Zwiers

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