Why don’t girls tinker? Can toys help?

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Tinkering edit 
Boys love to tinker; girls don’t and that may another reason they don’t go into the sciences.  That’s according to Lisa Damour in a thought provoking article aptly titled:  “Teaching Girls to Tinker.”

Ms. Damour raises the question:  “…[E]ven as girls open new gender gaps by outpacing their male peers in most subjects, men still receive roughly 77% of the bachelor's degrees in engineering and 85% of the bachelor's degrees in computer scienceWhy aren't girls choosing to enter these critical "fields of the future"?”

She cites a number of reasons:  “[G]irls lack sufficient numbers of female role models in computer science and engineering; girls prefer sciences that are clearly connected to helping others; girls are turned off by the "isolated geek" stereotype that dominates their view of computer science and engineering.

Damour says those may be causes but an important one may be that girls are simply not encouraged to tinker with things.  Boys are encouraged by parents and teachers work machines like VCR’s.  When you think back, while in elementary and junior high school, I don’t remember any girls being in the Audio / Visual Club (those lucky, lucky people who got to get out of class in order to set up the projector in your classroom).

She goes on to point out that even “…when adults do encourage girls to tinker, they often find that girls are reluctant. Having mastered an educational system that prizes outcome over process, girls can be at a loss when asked to engage in a method that may or may not produce a polished finished product.”

As I read her comments, I began to think about toys and how they might tie into an opportunity and a solution.  Consider her suggestions below and think about how toys might play a role:

Look for opportunities for girls to tinker without worrying about deadlines or grades. After-          school Lego Leagues, school "intersessions," and unstructured class time are prime times for tinkering.

Don't expect girls to tinker alone… At school, have girls tinker with a partner; studies show that women in computer science classes who work in pairs are more likely to feel confident about their programming…

Give girls meaningful goals. At … an all-girls school … the high school engineering students tinkered with surprising enthusiasm as they designed chicken coops — with scale models and blue prints — to be constructed by their classmates during a summer trip to a Tanzanian orphanage.

Do you have thoughts about girls and tinkering?  If so, let us know.

3 thoughts

  1. I was just thinking yesterday that most likely most of the innovation in cooking tools since cave dwelling days came from women…look at all the “mom-trepreneurs” inventing juvenile products…it’s what’s relevant to them, not that it’s technical. Changing role models will affect what’s relevant as more women assume traditionally “male” roles. We in the biz can help that along with products that reflect these changes.

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