The IET found that 31 per cent of science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) toys were listed for boys, compared with 11 per cent listed for girls, after analysing 360 toys and images across the top ten retailer’s websites as well as 594 search engine results.
Using the search terms “boys’ toys” and “girls’ toys”, the study also found that 89 per cent of toys listed for girls were pink compared with 1 per cent for boys.
The IET warned that societal stereotypes driving the gendered gift lists could be turning young girls away from careers in technology and engineering.
And it said that while the onus was on parents to “think outside the pink and blue boxes” when shopping for their children, toy retailers and search engines also had a responsibility not to perpetuate gender stereotypes.
Search engines in particular could look at introducing ways of detecting patterns of gender bias, the charity said.
The latest figures from the IET’s 2016 Skills and Demand in Industry survey show that women account for just 9 per cent of engineers in the UK.
However, separate IET research conducted with parents and children found that 39 per cent of primary school girls said they enjoy ICT and computing, 38 per cent enjoy maths and 36 per cent like science. The same study found just 7 per cent of parents think engineering would appeal to their daughter as a career.
IET spokeswoman Mamta Singhal said: “The research shows girls clearly do have an interest in science, technology and engineering subjects at school so we need to find ways to help this to translate into a higher number of women entering the industry.
“The toy industry is changing slowly and over the years more gender neutral toys such as science kits have started appearing. Toys can really influence what a child does in later years.”
Jess Day, from the campaign Let Toys Be Toys, said: “We previously asked women engineers and scientists about the toys they played with as children and the most interesting finding was not that they all played with construction or science toys, but they didn’t recall being aware of a distinction. It’s not just the toys which are the issue, but the whole idea that some things are just for boys or girls. If children learn that early, it’s hardly surprising that they go on to apply this logic to their career choices.”