Leader comment: Toying with change is not enough

Pink and blue labelling for girls and boys starts at birth.

Pink and blue labelling for girls and boys starts at birth.

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The aisles of department stores are perhaps not the most obvious battlegrounds for gender equality. Manufacturers have found themselves under increasing pressure from campaigners to consign blue and pink packaging to the past.

Critics believe “gender stereotyping” has never been more prevalent in marketing campaigns since the retail boom of the 1970s.

Groups like Let Toys Be Toys believe children need access to a full range of toys to help them “develop and learn about the world.” Psychologists and sociologists have expressed fears about the long-term impact of having clearly divided aisles with construction and technology toys on one side and role play and arts and crafts on the other.

Now the Institution of Engineering and Technology has entered the debate by publishing research which found boys are three times as likely as girls to receive science, technology, engineering and maths-related toys this Christmas. But modern-day society still accepts that boys and girls are very different, especially when it comes to the clothes they wear. This starts at birth itself, when cards and gifts are more often than not blue or pink. This early identification is rarely questioned. At what point, then, should these coloured labels become wrong?

There is no doubt there should be parity when it comes to being able to pursue careers in science, engineering and technology. Great progress has been made in this area when it comes to the schools curriculum.

But until there is fundamental change in societal stereotypes over the direction boys and girls should be encouraged to follow - which would have to start at birth - there will continue to be a disparity.

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