It's International Woman Day. A perfect time to discuss gender stereotyping in the sales and marketing of children's toys mostly online but also in shops.
Gender Stereotyping in the Toy industry is important as Toy Retailers are likely the first commercial entity a child will be given a purchasing decision on. As such our industry has a role in marketing toys in a gender-neutral fashion.
The marketing elements that a child is exposed to when selecting a toy is Toy Colour and Toy Imagery.
But first I want to give my opinion on Toy Descriptions, which is a text focussed primarily on Parents who browse online.
As a small online toyshop, we have a direct input into the toy descriptions that appear on our website. Our toy suppliers are getting better in their descriptions, but each description undoubtedly needs to be proof-read by us as we still get some shocking descriptions that need massive amending.
My observation over our 14 years in business runs like this.
Dollhouses - Its getting worse - the options from our suppliers are nearly all a version of pink. Some years ago we did stock a marvellous red dollhouse called "The Marlborough Mansion". I cant find it anymore.
Play Kitchens - Its getting better - more reds and blues, particularly from our dominant supplier Kidkraft.
Interestingly colour stereotyping, has been heavily researched over the last few decades. Research suggests that childrens' colour preference's set in at around 2 - 3 years of age. Additionally, this imprinting is adult led.
A recent Experiment in the UK where three-to-five-year-olds were given red or blue t-shirts to wear at creche . For one group, the red and blue t-shirts were constantly referred to, the other group had no adult referral to their t-shirts were made. After three weeks the children who had adult-led referrals to their tshirt colour, liked everything about their own colour group better.
This is where the industry can do a lot better, where a small change can make a critical impact but that impact is not on children, its to open parents up to non-gender-related play behaviours. Because Kids dont buy toys online - parents do.
I would controversially say most parents are gender stereotyped when it comes to large role-play toys. The toy manufacturers know this, and to appeal to the greatest segment of buyers they manufacture mostly pink dollhouses and kitchens that mostly feature girls in the photos.
Some toy manufacturers are making efforts however, some have boys in the photos of their wooden play kitchens, but its only on kitchens coloured red. I've often suggested to our larger toy suppliers, why not photo a large role play toy being played with a mix of boys and girls. As the shopper browses perhaps this mix of girls & boys could commercially benefit them, prompting the potential purchaser to realise that this dollhouse could not only suit their daughter but also offer play opportunities for their son. The Juries out if they'll make that large stride.
Lastly, toy e-retailers need to lead but the commercial reality is they also need to make a few "bob" and therefore need to follow
their customer's inclinations. Parents often shop per gender and to help them find what they want quicker we do offer on the Mimitoys homepage a gender filter.
To be frank, as I write this article I'm increasingly uncomfortable with it. In fact, as I conclude I must make the admission that it shouldn't be there. Give me 3 months and that filter will be gone. So Mimitoys have tried hard to get our toy descriptions right but we overlooked a gender discriminating filter.
Maybe its time for major retailers in their advertising and major manufacturers in the marketing communications to do the same.
Lets Make Every Toy Accessible to Every Child.