Gender inequality in technology starts with parents.
For parents, gender matters when it comes to what technology and media they’ll give to their children, according to a study from research firm PlayScience, which is a company that works with partners to help them better understand their customers. The organization surveyed 501 parents of children between the ages of 2 and 9 to collect its information. The data showed that parents treat their children different depending on their sex. This mostly results in adults enabling boys to pick and choose the tech and media they consume while parents are more likely to give girls things that are marketed specifically for kids. While PlayScience did not claim any link, it’s possible this is one reason for the imbalance of genders in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education and employment.
Parents are three times more likely to give their boys a smartphone or gaming console than girls. Daughters, however, are more likely to get a “kid’s tablet.”
When it comes to girls, parents are most concerned with the “child-friendliness” of the tech or media. But with sons, parents are most concerned with what the boy says he wants. This is likely because of how families use tech to placate sons — 48 percent of respondents said they give their sons tablets or other devices to soothe them when they are upset. That number is only 34 percent for daughters.
“Ironically, parents have distinct and very different perceptions about devices, even when they have almost identical content,” PlayScience co-chief executive officer and chief play officer Dr. J. Alison Bryant said. “This study puts parents on notice to be more attentive to their attitudes and behaviors about their children’s media use. Whether conscious or unconscious, parents are more likely to take into consideration their son’s preferences, while seeming to be more protective when it comes to choosing for their daughter.”
Gender is a hot topic in both technology and gaming. People have started calling for more diversity in media representation as well as in the companies that make software and hardware. This is due to a natural desire for different kinds of people to work in tech-heavy fields, but it’s also due to many women and minorities in these industries getting vocal about incidents where they were treated poorly.
The PlayScience report reveals that getting more girls involved in technology will require educating today’s parents and not just their children.