Girls should play with building toys like Lego and Meccano instead of dolls, the new president of the British Science Association has said. The wrong toys are reinforcing gender stereotypes and holding girls back from careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, says Dame Athene Donald, Professor of Experimental Physics at Cambridge University.
“We need to change the way we think about boys and girls and what’s appropriate for them from a very early age. Does the choice of toys matter? I believe it does,” she said.
“We introduce social constructs by stereotyping what toys boys and girls receive from the earliest age. Girls’ toys are typically liable to lead to passivity – combing the hair of Barbie, for instance – not building, imagining or being creative with Lego or Meccano.
“You can see that boys (toys) ads are dominated by power and battle whereas girls seem to be able to get through life on love and magic. I’m sorry, I don’t think that will get them very far and whereas I am no fan of battles the idea that active behaviours is to be encouraged.”
She said that physics in particular was notorious for its lack of female students – only a fifth of A level Physics students are girls.
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