Princess toys spark girls to fill high demand careers?

Image representing GoldieBlox as depicted in C...
Image by None via CrunchBase

There is no shortage of parents eager to get their child the latest and greatest in educational toys.

GoldieBlox, a brand developed by a female engineer who was puzzled by the lack of women in the field,  aims to fill the gender gap in STEM careers through hands-on toys geared to girls.

Despite the buzz surrounding GoldieBlox as a finalist to earn a SuperBowl ad spot, critics say the princess themed science toys sell girls short.

I argue princess themed educational toys can help fulfill high demand careers within an underrepresented female population.

Infographic Source: She-Geeks

Educational toys’ effectiveness have been questioned by researchers and parents alike. Who can forget market dominated Baby Einstein, promising to turn parent’s bundles of joy into geniuses through the art video babysitting. Time magazine reported research back in 2007 that for every daily hour of television a child consumes results in up to eight fewer vocabulary words learned.

Baby Einstein, acquired by Disney, started offering refunds to its consumers in 2007 following the release of multiple studies which not only suggested the lack of intellectual edge for its young viewers but some even claimed developmental disadvantages.

GoldieBlox critics claim the entire concept as a marketing gimmick, using traditional pink and purple packaging,  a strategy some say contradicts their mission to  “disrupt the pink aisle.”

Deborah Siegel, a published feminist writer, halfheartedly defended GoldieBlox by saying “sneaking a princess narrative into an otherwise girl-empowering toy is an act of Trojan Princess.” She goes on to note that affecting gender role stereotypes is an evolutionary process and admits GoldieBlox is a step in the right direction.

And Siegel is right. GoldieBlox has a great concept already eliciting excitement and change in the toy industry. The marketing strategy may not perfectly represent the idea of gender neutrality, but I dare to say that neutrality is not the social solution formula to the gender role problem.

In the case of GoldieBlox, the marketing strategy is used to inspire children to create, learn, and reach for new interests. The issue of traditional gender role marketing of the past mimicked the social norms of the time.

Not only have social norms evolved but so have social needs. There is high demand for STEM workers and while women make up nearly half of the general workforce, less than a quarter of STEM positions are held by women.

This suggests that while gender acceptance into the workforce from homemaker has evolved, gender marketing that ignores social need, such as demand for skilled STEM applicants, is missing out on a valuable workforce resource.

And unlike Baby Einstein, GoldieBlox requires engagement, independent problem solving, and encourages teamwork, all elements contributing to increased vocabulary and analytical thinking.

It’s true some feminist continue to criticize GoldieBlox for marketing through gender role stereotypes. The Budding Biologist blog explains this objectively well. But, I must point out the aim of GoldieBlox is not necessarily to change the marketing strategy itself but to increase science interests in girls who are being strictly marketed kitchen sets and baby carriages.

It is admirable to argue that marketing should be less gender specific, however, choosing to market this product under gender-neutral strategies will miss the chance to impact girls/families who will still be drawn to the princess aisle.


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