I found myself in the “girl aisles” of Toys R Us with my two older sons last week, shopping for my daughter’s 5th birthday. There was no sign directing us to a segregated area of the store, but we knew where we should be going. Girl aisles are filled with pink toys, which include dolls, housekeeping equipment, princess items, and fashion crafts. And faeries. Pictures of happy girls are splashed all over the packaging.
Why are such a small percentage of girls training as engineers and mathematicians in college, and entering STEM (Science Math Engineering and Medicine) disciplines? Few parents today tell their girls that those are “men’s fields.” But many parents comment that their girls “just don’t gravitate” towards engineering and math.
Psychology research tells us that what we enjoy has a lot to do with what we are comfortable with, what we feel competent doing, and what we share with our friends. When our daughters grow up with little experience with engineering activities (like Lego’s and Kinex), and have not experienced success with increasingly complex engineering activities (like following the schemas in a snap circuits set) they naturally do not gravitate towards related engineering activities in school.
This holiday season, I plan to walk away from the “girl aisle” and buy a few toys for my daughter that will allow her to build her confidence and experience a sense of fun with engineering activities. Here is a wonderful video encouraging girls to “disrupt the pink aisles.” Enjoy!