The new charter aims to address the low numbers of women involved in STEM related careers.
French toy makers have signed a pact to rid games and toys of gender stereotypes, which many blame for the low ratio of women to men in maths and science based careers. The charter for a ‘balanced representation (of genders) in toys’ was signed by the government, the French Federation of Toy and Childcare Industries (FJP) and the association of toy manufacturers. Attempts to steer the debate on so-called sexist toys coincide with Mattel releasing a new line of gender-neutral dolls.
Junior economy minister, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, said many toys projected an “insidious” message that discouraged girls from pursuing careers as engineers or computer coders, fields perceived as more appropriate for boys. The message that jobs are gender-specific is hammered home from a young age.
She added: “There are toys for girls that are generally very pink and focused on domestic life, whereas toys for boys are generally themed around construction, space travel, science and technology. If you go to a shop to buy a toy for your young niece or nephew, the first question is: ‘Is it for a girl or a boy?’ But a little girl might choose to be a knight riding into battle rather than a princess. Let’s give them a far richer world that doesn’t stigmatise them.”
Though women make up more than half of the French population, they only made up 38% of researchers at France’s national research centre in 2017, and fewer than a third of research managers. Apart from changes in toy design, the charter also envisages manufacturers adapting the way their products are advertised to spark change in numbers like these.
French toy manufacturers have said it is too early to revise their ranges ahead of Christmas, but there would be immediate changes to shop displays as well as in how staff are trained to treat boys and girls.
In response to the pact, Dutch education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven has also prompted toy makers to examine carefully what they create. She said in a TED talk last December that the media and advertising industry continued to portray husbands as breadwinners and wives as homemakers and that this had a lasting effect on children.