Do toys have the power to shape a child’s career?

The British toy market is now worth £3.2billion – the biggest toy market in Europe. A recent report claims female numbers are lowest in STEM-orientated sectors.

The British toy market is now worth £3.2billion - the biggest toy market in Europe. A recent report claims female numbers are lowest in STEM-orientated sectors. Figures from the 2016 Toy Fair indicate there's been a recent 5.9 per cent rise in British toy sales and the NPD group has claimed the British toy market is now worth over £3.2billion - an increase of £150million year on year; proving the business of UK toys to be bigger than every other in Europe.

Throughout 2015, innovative ideas created more than 58,000 new toys; equating to 31 per cent of UK toy sales or £1billion in retail. LEGO mini figures became 2015's best-selling toy, swiftly followed by action figures (up 20 per cent), building sets (up 14 per cent) and plush (soft toys - up 14 per cent), with considerable growth in sales.

Over the past few years, toy retailers and manufacturers have met with government officials to discuss how to better the creation, and subsequent marketing of toys; with concern towards how we can encourage and inspire the future career prospects - and dreams - of growing, young minds across the country. And, it is perhaps our young women of the future who stand to benefit the most

Focus is being placed upon all things STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) as this is an area that is in desperate need of a boost in recruitment - particularly when it comes to female participation.

Worryingly, a recent report has claimed that at school level, only one in 31 girls will choose to take maths or science; whilst at secondary school, engagement with maths and science will fall by as much as 74 per cent amongst girls and 56 per cent amongst boys.

In fact, 170 STEM-focused companies and organisations recently signed up to recruit and retain women in science and math careers. The Your Life campaign, an initiative that is working towards ensuring the workplace remains globally competitive and rich with as many women as there are men in STEM sectors, is one prime example. The campaign's overall drive is to increase the number of young people studying maths and science, post-16, by as much as 80 per cent by the end of 2017. decided to analyse a report conducted by PwC, to see if changing how we create and market our toys could make a difference to future women's job roles.

Evidently, the infographic created by OnBuy clearly details how few women are active in all industries, particularly concerning construction (10 per cent) or technical industries like water supply and sewage (17 per cent). Whereas, women are far more prevalent in sectors concerning compassionate qualities, such as teaching (60 per cent) and healthcare (75 per cent).

Typically, 'toys for boys' - like action figures and building sets - will influence qualities like logic, drive and physicality. Therefore, as young boys grow up they will learn to believe they can take on roles that encompass any of these elements. Contrastingly, 'toys for girls' - like Barbie, dress-up sets and delicate tea sets - will echo qualities such as domesticity or the ability to nurture and love. Again, defining a clear and 'conventional' role through which to see themselves.

Certainly, the lack of women in male-dominated industries proves that both genders could benefit from an immersive connection to well-built and purposeful toys as they learn and grow, no matter the type or gender appropriation.

Undeniably, children are not born with expectations about future careers, or a belief of what they're limited to, or what their work is worth. However, if they're only ever exposed to toys and play which is deemed 'gender appropriate' by convention and society - they'll begin to carve a clear idea in their mind about the types of jobs or opportunities they can achieve.

From a female perspective, research from the US argues one of the ways to transform development through play is to dress stereotypical girls' toys - such as Barbie - in uniforms for stereotypically male fields - such as a firefighter, engineer or an astronaut - which may influence whether girls view themselves as capable of working in those industries.

More than helping to inspire future generations, a revision of the way we create and market our toys will also benefit the economy. Firstly, as more and more girls become exposed to science and technology, specific toys and play, industries may experience an increase in the volume of women who later become interested in pursuing a STEM-orientated career; boosting not only the economy but business in general. Moreover, decoupling gender from toys will widen the range of options available to consumers; increasing sales and overall customer satisfaction.

Cas Paton, Managing Director of comments, "Play is the perfect way to introduce children to as wide a range of experiences as possible; so, it is important not to limit how kids play and what they choose to play with. We should challenge young minds and encourage them to explore, try new things and push their capabilities. A broad range of toys and games will allow us to do this - so why not seek for better."

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