Inventor's Digest has an interview up with Judy Lee, a mechanical engineer and industrial designer for IDEO who also happens to co-host PBS' "Design Squad Nation" program. In addition to following Lee's career arc, the interview touches on a point that organizations like Femme Den fight to bring to the forefront: Why are women underrepresented in engineering (and by extension, industrial design)?
Lee suggests toy design itself may play a role:
For my generation, I think it had something to do with the things we liked to do and were encouraged to do growing up. If you look at all the toys that were available, most of them are gender specific.
Toys for boys included fake tools like plastic hammers and drills that encouraged building skills, while toys for girls included kitchen sets and dolls that encouraged nurturing skills. They were typically identified in 'appropriate' colors, where pastels and shades of pink were girlie, and primary colors (blue, green and red) were for boys.
While this is a generalization, I think industry had a large role influencing parents subconsciously as to what was appropriate for their kids to play with. This is still true today. Why do toys even need to be gender appropriate? Kids learn best through playing. Playing is the perfect chance for kids to experience first-hand what is happening and to analyze the world around them.
Check out the full interview here.