Within the last few decades, there has been an enormous push to increase the number of women in STEM fields. This is largely a result of the rise of today’s digital age where technological and scientific industries have started to dominate the labor market, thereby exponentially increasing the number of STEM-related jobs available. Despite these countless opportunities, why do men continue to dominate fields such as medicine and computer science?

While most research on this topic points to barriers such as educational schooling systems and lack of self-confidence on behalf of the women, it is the rhetoric surrounding the problem itself that continues to amplify this long-standing underrepresentation of women in STEM fields. For instance, let’s take companies such as Lego who are actively attempting to close the gender gap in STEM fields through the creation of gender-specific toys. The basis of their idea is the creation of toys that would be more appealing to women at first glance, thereby ridding them of the notion that engineering toys are not just for boys and instead convincing girls that they too have opportunities in the field of engineering. Lego boxes covered in fairy princesses and pink glitter are made to appeal to girls, while boxes with race cars and action figures are meant to appeal more to boys. While gender-typing toys may appear to solve the issue of drawing women into STEM fields, companies such as Lego may actually be further perpetuating the gender gap in using this strategy.  

The creation of gender-specific toys themselves emphasizes the need for a separate “boy” and “girl” culture. By employing separate advertising techniques for boys’ and girls’ construction toys, toy companies such as Lego are only further promoting the idea that girls and boys cannot habitually or naturally share the same interests. Promoting this message will, in the long run, only cause women to shy away from fields such as engineering as they fear a sense of disbelonging in a field comprised primarily of men. To solve this problem, some toy companies have made efforts to remove gender-stereotyping of toys and instead manufacture gender-neutral toys. However, this strategy may not be so successful in today’s culture that is already heavily constructed by the persisting gender gap. Thus, many companies like Lego are struggling to expand interests of their consumers in STEM fields while faced with a rigid culture built upon gender-stereotyping.

The social climate pertaining to the issue of the gender gap present in STEM fields is ultimately the root of the problem and the reason progress has been slow over the past few decades. While there has been some improvement in this realm over the last few years, it is not until society’s outlook on and approach towards gender-stereotyping is transformed that revolutionary change will occur with regards to the representation of women in STEM fields.