Two years ago I ran a seminar at the Nuremberg Toy Fair on the question: Do the toys that girls play with as children have an impact on the professional and academic choices they make as women? I had begun my research on this question because of concerns by some that gender stereotypical toys like toy brooms and baby dolls had a handicapping effect on women entering the sciences.
As I was leaving the conference, a gentleman approached me to make the point that the notion of the sciences as a preserve for males was not a global one. In fact, he pointed out that females actually dominated the sciences in parts of Asia and the Middle East.
That comment came back to me when I recently came upon an article in the New York Times by Hannah Fairfield entitled “Girls Lead in Science Exam, but Not in the United States.”
According to the story, “a test [was] given in 65 developed countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. It finds that among a representative sample of 15-year-olds around the world, girls generally outperform boys in science….” It seems that girls outscored boys in Northern Europe and Asia to a significant degree. They also outscored boys in the Middle East, Southern Europe and Eastern Europe.
The important question that I have is what is happening in these other countries that forms such a different outlook in females? What if any role do toys play? If you are aware of research in this area or have some insights please write in and let us know.