Parents who only buy their daughters traditional ‘girlie’ type toys should think again. So says the WISE (Women Into Science and Engineering) campaign, which is aimed at getting more women to consider professions in these areas.
WISE says that although toys aimed exclusively at girls – like the Barbie and Spice Girl dolls – are very popular, they do nothing to develop the intellectual or technical ability of the children who receive them. Scientific and constructional toys, such as K-ynex, Meccano, robotics and Technical Lego can be just as much fun and have the added benefit of equipping girls for the ever-growing technological demands of today’s classrooms and of modern life.
WISE has found that when girls get into classroom situations, many lack the confidence to deal with practical ‘hands-on’ experience because they have not been exposed to it. The problem stems from ‘socialisation’ – being conditioned from a young age to consider that certain toys – and therefore activities – are only for girls and others only for boys.
The result is that fewer girls than boys take ‘A’ levels in maths and science and the number of women embarking on degree courses in science and engineering remains low. British engineering misses out on its share of the nation’s top quality women, and women miss out on satisfying careers.
According to Marie-Noelle Barton, manager of the Engineering Council’s WISE Campaign, parents should encourage their daughters to be more confident in dealing with technology.
‘There is nothing wrong with parents buying their young daughters dolls, but they should also seriously consider scientific and construction toys. Technology is all around us, at home, at work, and in our leisure. Parents can help by ensuring that young girls in particular are not frightened by technology if they are to cope in our rapidly changing world.’
Asked for her views about such toys, engineer and mother of three girls, Lyn Medynski said, ‘If there is an interest in constructional toys then I definitely encourage it. Unfortunately media hype tends to dissuade them and if peer pressure is not into technical things then you have an up hill struggle.’