Gender agendas

Kids Industries director Gary Pope shares the results of his study into what children and adults think about gender archetypes. Slowly, he states, tradition is being broken.
Publish date:

Let’s get one thing clear upfront. We believe all children should have the opportunity to play with as wide a range of things as possible.

This gender malarkey is polarising and everyone has an opinion. So, I‘m going to share my opinion, supported by the views of 1,200 respondents.

And 56 academics.

In June 2014, we conducted a large research study to find out what children and parents really thought about the gender archetypes that society foists upon us.

We found that overwhelmingly, girls prefer nurturing toys, whilst boys like action. But gender is a spectrum. Some boys want to play with feminine toys, some girls want to play with masculine toys, and all should have the opportunity to do so.

But right now parents remain the gatekeepers – and end up reinforcing stereotypes.

We know that society is the way it is: we know mum shops in specific ways for her son versus for her daughter.

Yet dads are even more guarded. They get uncomfortable by talk of boys wearing dresses and playing with dolls. The stats show dads are more concerned about their boys exploring dimensions perceived as feminine, than their girls engaging in ‘boyish’ activities.

But, slowly, tradition is being broken. This is the digital age. The tablet is gender-neutral.

Wonderfully it especially enables boys to try apps, which – if they were real toys – would be off limits. The boys enjoyed playing Toca Boca Hair Salon, however, when we showed those same boys a Girls World mannequin head, they were resoundingly against playing with it.

Here’s a proposition: if you could double your potential consumer base, would you want to?

Seems simple enough, but we don’t. Because the media eco-system is gender-aligned, we think immediately where the TVC will be placed before understanding how the child will engage with the toy. It’s always boy or girl.

At least, that is part of it - but not all of it. Times are changing.

93 per cent of parents – that’s 934 of the 1,000 we spoke to quantitatively - and 100 per cent of those we spoke to qualitatively told us that they shop by category, not by gender.

Gender labelling isn’t a non-issue, though: ask parents if they’d buy a pink kitchen for their boys and 87 per cent say no. But a ‘gender neutral’ kitchen? 85 per cent would.

74 per cent of our respondents felt that retail marketing efforts influenced their behaviours. And 73 per cent would like to see all packaging in gender neutral colours – so why haven’t more retailers taken down the boy/girl directional signage?

Have sales of toys been detrimentally affected by the recent change of tack at retail? No.

What the movements for change are suggesting is that if a girl wants to play with something that is usually played with by a boy she should be able to, and vice versa.

Where’s the blimmin’ problem then?

There isn’t one.

Gary Pope is a director at Kids Industries, a company offering insight, strategy and content to clients that wish to connect with the family anywhere in the world. Clients of the firm include BBC, Random House, Mattel, GSK, Kellogg, eOne Entertainment, Warner Brothers, Al Jazeera and Disney.


3 Girl for all time.png

Gender defender

A Girl for All Time’s Frances Cain explores why the toy industry still needs to offer ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ products, without telling kids that one is better than the other.


NEWS ANALYSIS: Gender specific toys

Recently, two mothers set up Pinkstinks - a campaign that ?targets the products, media and marketing that prescribe heavily stereotyped and limiting roles to young girls?. The latest subject of the organisation?s disapproval is make-up toys for kids. Katie Roberts asks the industry what they think...

Blazing a trail for gender equality

Aardvark Swift’s Hannah Goodwin looks at ten of the biggest UK toy companies the firm works with to see how many women have made it into director/board level roles.

Featured Jobs

Copyrights Group

Marketing Manager

The Copyrights Group is one of the licensing arms within The Vivendi Group. Acquired by Vivendi in 2016 Copyrights manages the licensing for a portfolio of properties to include Paddington Bear. Some of the other companies within the Vivendi Group include Universal Music Group, and their licensing arm Bravado, Gameloft and Studiocanal to name a few.