We were so pumped after releasing our first product, the Yellow Explorer Kit, that we wanted to do something equally exciting. But what? When we took a second look and examined the market on explorer kits, it only took a moment to notice a huge void. No one sells a kit in feminine colors. I was simultaneously surprised and not surprised at all. Apparently, when most toy companies think about “explorers”, they envision boys. Not us. Unplugged Explorers was started by a couple of moms who grew up playing in the woods and a dad who’s raising three daughters. We all know how important it is to be inclusive to all genders.
Studies have shown that as women and girls, we have been left behind when it comes to toys aimed at improving kid’s skills in science, technology, engineering and math. This genre of toys, generally referred to as STEM toys, has traditionally been branded “for boys.” Girls have had to settle for masculine colors and themes that are far from universal. When I was a little girl, I was deeply interested in science and nature. I was consistently disappointed with my toy options. For me, it was a tug-of-war between pursuing my passions and being teased for being too masculine (I mean, honestly, we all look the same when covered in a layer of mud and twigs). Being who I am, my passions (and mud) usually won out. As it turns out, I was an exception to the rule. In our world, conformity often wins over passion. According to research, most girls move away from the sciences over time. Young girls losing interest or moving away from STEM means that we are much less likely to study in or find future employment in STEM fields. We want to change this critical problem.
So, how do we close the gap between girls and boys in STEM fields? It’s an uphill battle, for sure. However, there are some easy steps. According to an article written by Jamie Davis Smith for the Huffington Post, step one is investing in STEM toys for girls. We realize that if girl’s STEM toys are not searchable and available for parents to buy, then they won't be there for our young girls to use. For us, that meant taking a chance on an untested marked and producing the first soft, lavender purple kit.
Another way we can positively impact our girls is to be very conscious of our interactions with them as they play. According to one study by the AACU, boys often receive “micro-compliments” from teachers in STEM fields while girls receive “micro-criticisms”. This is a systemic issue that needs to change. Teachers need some education themselves when it comes to this issue but, in the meantime, let’s make sure our girls are getting as much positive reinforcement as they can at home and at play! Strong girls grow to be strong women and we need strong women in every field!
Why didn’t we put “for girls” right on the box? Because we want to be inclusive to all genders and individuals. A person’s color preference may have nothing to do with their gender. We like to put toys and tools in boxes, but we’d never want a to put a person in a box. We want everyone who loves the color purple to feel good about having it. After all, it is an awesome color.
Girls Are Put Off Science Because STEM Toys Are Branded As Boy's Toys, Research Says
Why STEM Toys Should Be on Your List for the Holidays
“So, what can you do now to give your kids a life-long interest in STEM and set them up for success? Gift-givers to children of all ages can focus their gift giving on gifts that promote an interest in STEM, particularly for children who are elementary and middle school aged.”
10 Simple Ways to Empower Girls to Love STEM
Engaging Girls In STEM
National Girls Collaborative Project: https://ngcproject.org/engaging-girls-in-stem
Adjusting Micromessages to Improve Equity in STEM: https://www.aacu.org/publications-research/periodicals/adjusting-micromessages-improve-equity-stem
Girls’ Achievements and interest in Math and Science Are Shaped by the Environment around Them: https://www.aauw.org/aauw_check/pdf_download/show_pdf.php?file=why-so-few-research
CASCADING INFLUENCES: Long-Term Impacts of Informal STEM Experiences for Girls https://www.fi.edu/sites/default/files/cascading-influences.pdf
Effective STEM programs for adolescent girls: http://niost.org/images/pdf/afterschoolmatters/asm_2013_17_spring/ASM_2013_spring_6.pdf