The new study surveyed nearly 7,000 parents and children aged 6-14 in the UK, US, China, Japan, Poland, Czech Republic and Russia.
Researchers found that while girls were growing in confidence and eager to explore a wide range of activities, the same was not true of boys.
It found that 71 per cent of boys feared they would be made fun of if they played with what they described as “girls’ toys”, a concern shared by their parents.
Their analysis also found that girls were five times more likely to be encouraged to try dancing or dress-up than boys when it came to play, and three times more likely to be encouraged to try baking, while boys were encouraged to do sports or Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities.
When polled, 82 per cent of girls said it was OK for girls to play football and boys to practice ballet, compared with 71 per cent of boys.
And of parents surveyed, 89 per cent said they were more likely to think of engineers as men than women, while 85 per cent said they would think of scientists and athletes as being male.
The study was conducted by the Geena Davis Institute to mark the UN’s International Day of the Girl and mark the launch of a new Lego campaign called “Ready for Girls”, which aims to celebrate girls who “rebuild the world through creative problem solving”.
“The benefits of creative play such as building confidence, creativity and communication skills are felt by all children and yet we still experience age-old stereotypes that label activities as only being suitable for one specific gender,” says Julia Goldin, chief marketing officer at Lego Group.
“At the Lego Group we know we have a role to play in putting this right, and this campaign is one of several initiatives we are putting in place to raise awareness of the issue and ensure we make Lego play as inclusive as possible. All children should be able to reach their true creative potential,” she added.
Lego no longer labels its products as “for girls” or “for boys” and customers cannot search toys by gender on its website.
In conjunction with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and UNICEF, Lego has now committed to ensuring Lego products and marketing are “accessible to all and free of gender bias and harmful stereotypes”.
The Let Toys Be Toys campaign was launched in 2012 in the UK to encourage toy makers to be more inclusive when it came to designing and marketing toys for children.
“Gender stereotypes hold us all back and help to drive assumptions about who does the caring, they cause toxic masculinity and hold women and girls back in terms of the career choices they perceive as being 'for them',” former Fawcett Society chief executive Sam Smethers told The Independent in 2018.
“By smashing stereotypes we will begin to address the underlying causes of the inequality, which causes the gender pay gap, drives misogyny and violence against women and girls,” she added.
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