Everywhere I look lately, I see the status quo for girls being redefined in a really great way. Girls have more opportunities and are recognized for the diverse and unique individuals they are. Even toy companies are now changing the way girls interact with things previously thought of as “girlie,” like Princesses and the color pink. As the dad of a spunky daughter with diverse and contrasting interests and sensibilities (like all girls I suspect,) I love the trend. Can she wear a tiara and simultaneously dream of one day becoming an engineer, or an architect, or a scientist? Of course. And more and more the world around her is supporting these kinds of ideas.
While some dads might not agree with me, even right here at Babble, I see the trend in engineering toys marketing specifically for girls as a positive. Even if toy companies haven’t achieved complete gender equality yet (has the rest of the world?) how can anything that encourages girls to explore new fields that have traditionally been closed to them be bad? If “pink” LEGO’s, as in the LEGO Disney Princess line, are expanding their minds in terms of how they see themselves as builders and engineers, then who cares if the LEGOs are pink? More colors for the rest of us I say. It’s about time we had some lavender bricks! The important thing is if parents that wouldn’t normally buy LEGO sets for girls wind up putting them into the hands of their daughters, whether they’re pink, blue, or plaid, we’re more likely to end up with more girls who can build and dream and conceive of things they wouldn’t have without them.
Where are these trends for girls all leading? I’m not sure, but I’m certain it’s a place and mindset that’s better than where we came from. I love that my daughter sees no reason that her name couldn’t one day be listed alongside Frank Gehry or Frank Lloyd Wright or Thomas Edison or Alexander Graham Bell if that’s what she decides she wants. As my fellow Disney Dads blogger Dr. Kelly Flanagan puts it, “Women can be kingdom builders, too. All by themselves.” I am certain my daughter could build anything she wants — whether it’s a building or a city or a fashion empire or a veterinary practice. Anything is possible.
My hope is that my daughter never misses out on being able to see the limitless possibilities for herself. Luckily for her, she has a mom who is also a strong, independently-minded IT director, managing multi-million dollar projects for major technology companies (i.e. not your typical old-fashioned woman). Being in the industry, my wife Cassie knows there are a lot of fields out there yearning for more women to enter them or are at least rife with opportunities for women who decide to go that route. And she’s so right. Studies show that the top Fortune 500 companies with enough insight to include female directors on their boards are doing markedly better than those who don’t. Hopefully, more and more companies will see the wisdom in workplace diversity, not as a mandate for gender equity, but as a tactically smart business decision that values the contribution of intelligent women everywhere.
And while the guest service, fashion, cooking, and writing industries, all once dominated by men, have yielded to many powerful women (J.K. Rowling didn’t use her full name because her publisher worried it wouldn’t appeal to boys), the fields of science and mathematics are still seen as largely mens’ fields. This despite the fact that women have contributed enormously to these fields over the centuries (Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace was not only royalty, but was the first person to write a computer program back in 1842!). But this dearth of women contributors is not just a gender equity problem (although that is still a major hurdle). Perceptions of these roles in the media and elsewhere have not made them female friendly. In the United States, being a female scientist isn’t necessarily “cool.” So when a company like LEGO puts out toys that have traditionally appealed to boys, and makes them appeal to girls, that’s a win-win in my book!
I’m pleased as punch that my daughter dreams big. I want her to dream big! Ideas about what are “appropriate” careers for children based on gender or ethnicity only stifle the possibilities. Did someone tell a young Barack Obama that people of African heritage can’t become president? Did someone tell Jeremy Lin that Asians who go to Harvard will never make it in the NBA? Did someone tell Danica Patrick that women don’t drive in NASCAR? Is anyone going to tell my daughter that because she’s female and of Asian descent she is limited? The answer is probably yes. And like the others, I’m pretty sure Emma will decide not to listen.