Tackling gender stereotypes in early childhood: Let Toys Be Toys joins expert commission

We’re delighted to be taking part in the Commission on Gender Stereotypes in Early Childhood, launched this week by gender equality campaigning charity The Fawcett Society.

Chaired by the Director of the UCL Institute of Education, Professor Becky Francis and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fatherhood, Rt Hon David Lammy MP the commission will bring together experts in parenting, education, and the commercial sector as well as campaigners committed to tackling gender stereotypes, including representatives of the National Education Union, National Childbirth Trust, Usborne Books, Muslim Women’s Network, as well as Let Toys Be Toys.

Fawcett Equality - it's about timeAn initial literature review has pulled together existing research and evidence on how stereotypes in early childhood affect children, shaping their development, education and life chances. The Commission will gather further evidence of the impact of stereotypes, and of what works to tackle them, aiming to promote practical solutions to change childhood and change lives. It will report back in 2020. Read more about the Commission.

Building momentum for change

It’s not just experts and campaigners who see the need for change. We’re really pleased that the Commission is a chance to build on the work that we and others have done to recognise and amplify parents’ concerns about the harm that stereotypes do, and the need to examine and challenge the messages that children are getting at the youngest age about what it means to be a boy or a girl.

Fawcett Society’s polling has uncovered widespread concern about ‘pink for girls, blue for boys’ advertising by manufacturers and retailers, with over 60% of parents agreeing that product marketing reinforces gender stereotypes.

Stereotypes harm boys and girls

We’ve always highlighted how stereotypes harm boys just as much as girls, and the Commission will examine the impact of harmful ideas about masculinity and boyhood too.

In Fawcett’s research, six in ten (59%) people polled agree that it is more acceptable for a girl to be a ‘tomboy’ than it is for a boy to be ‘feminine’. 69% of men aged under 35 said that stereotypes had a damaging effect on perceptions of what it means to be a man or a woman.

Rt Hon David Lammy, MP for Tottenham and Co-Chair of the Commission, said:
“Unjust stereotypes are massively detrimental to our society. As well as holding back women and girls, they send damaging messages to boys about what it means to be a man – like whether it’s okay to show emotion, or to have an equal role in parenting. Unravelling gender stereotypes is a social justice issue – this is about creating a fairer society where no child is limited just because of their sex, race, disability, or any other characteristic”.

Have your say

Over the course of the year the Commission will host evidence sessions, and will be seeking input from the public, including the views of parents and teachers on the gender stereotypes they see affecting children. You can submit your views to the consultation on the Fawcett website.

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