The LEGO Group and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media have released an important study on how “creativity” appears to be gendered. The research looks at how parents perceive creativity and how that changes if a child is a boy or a girl, but also how parents' approaches affect how children perceive creativity.
The work highlights how parents feel that they are limited in the creative activities that they encourage their sons to do, compared to their daughters. And that they push their sons into more STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and maths) and sports activities. Parents are twice as likely to encourage boys to learn how to code than girls, and three times as likely to engage in programming games and sports with boys over girls.
This appears to be related to the fact that parents are six times more likely to think of scientists and athletes as men instead of women. This proportion rises to eight times as likely when it comes to engineering. This major bias affects the potential of girls to pursue a career in STEM.
These prejudices in childrens play and activities have a harmful effect on boys as well. Parents are four times more likely to encourage girls in performance-based activities like dances, dress-up, and so on. And even when it comes to life skills like cooking, parents are three times more likely to encourage girls to learn rather than boys.
These biases are passed onto the children. The work found that 62 percent of the girls and 74 percent of boys believe that some activities are limited to just one gender. The study, on one hand, looked at the perceptions of parents and children in seven different markets: US, UK, Czech Republic, China, Japan, Russia, Poland. On the other, it looked at the media, focusing on both parenting blogs and public discourse. Creative women are featured in such media but they are more likely to hold traditionally feminine creative-types roles.
Gender roles are a human invention. Different societies have different gender roles and even the common binary of men and women is not that common after all. Names, colors, activities, clothes, change through history and from society to society. In fact, the advice that the report gives to parents is to praise the creativity of the child and not judge if they choose an activity that isn't “traditionally [insert gender]”.
The study encourages parents to let their kids try new things, encounter role models, show them diverse media, challenge stereotypes, and work on their own biases. The goal is to let the kids be happy to explore whatever form of creativity they want to dip their toes in.