Equalities Minister Jo Swinson is calling for toy manufacturers to market their toys ‘sensibly’ this Christmas – especially when it comes to science
This comes as campaigners have suggested that the future aspirations of girls and boys are set at a very young age, in part contributing to the lack of girls taking A Level science and maths subjects at school.
In recent years almost half of all state schools had no girls taking A level physics and almost double the number of boys took A level maths compared to girls.
Equalities Minister Jo Swinson said: ‘Parents know that boys and girls love all kinds of toys. With children developing very clear ideas at a young age about what jobs boys and girls can do, we can all help to send a clear signal that nothing is off limits. It is great that fewer retailers are defining toys as “for boys’”or “for girls”, which shows they are responding to their customers’ demands for more choice.
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‘But there is still more to do. I hope this Christmas companies will be conscious of how they are marketing their products and make sure they aren’t accidentally limiting customers’ and children’s choices.’
The Equalities Minister has received backing from parent-led campaign group Let Toys Be Toys, which is calling on manufacturers and toy shops to market toys to all children, rather than one gender or another.
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The Let Toys Be Toys campaign has highlighted influential companies – such as Tesco, M&S, and Boots – which have stopped signposting boys’ and girls’ toys on their websites, and are no longer unnecessarily narrowing the choices available to our children.
Jess Day, Let Toys Be Toys, said: ‘We believe that there is no such thing as a “girls' toy” or a “boys' toy”. Marketing toys by gender limits children's choices, limits their chances to learn and develop, and feeds bullying. Toys and toy marketing loom very large in children’s worlds, and are hugely influential in children’s development. Toy manufacturers, retailers and publishers need to be responsible, and avoid pushing limiting and dated stereotypes.’
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'We're delighted that categorising toys into 'Boys' and 'Girls' appears to be falling out of favour, with our recent survey of toy websites this year showing a 46% drop in gendered navigation compared with 2 years ago, and our 2013 toyshop survey showing a 60% drop in 'Boys' and 'Girls' signage on the previous year. A majority of stores are now selling toys without overt gender labelling; shoppers can find the toys they want to buy more easily when they're organised by category or theme. We ask retailers to "just say what it is, not who you think it should be for".'
Jo Swinson is asking both manufacturers and retailers of toys to get behind the Your Life campaign - which is encouraging young people, especially girls, to consider science, technology, engineering and maths careers - and pledge to take action to increase the numbers of women working in the sector.