White House Hosts Day-Long Event Challenging Gender Stereotypes in Toys

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The Obamas hosted an event at the White House Wednesday that aimed to tackle gender stereotypes perpetuated by toys and television shows marketed toward kids.

The administration put on the all-day conference in an attempt to break down gender divisions that currently characterize products consumed by children.

"I want all of our girls to get interested in science and technology and engineering and math," Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to Obama, said Wednesday. "And I want our boys to think about teaching in our schools and help shaping the next generation of our young people."

The symposium, "Helping our Children Explore, Learn and Dream without Limits: Breaking Down Gender Stereotypes in Media and Toys," featured speakers from toy, media and retail companies along with activists, academics and parents. Katie Couric and Ayah Bdeir, who founded the gender neutral start-up LittleBits, spoke during event.

Tina Tchen, director of the administration’s Council on Women and Girls, noted research during a press call Tuesday finding that the types of toys and media children interact with at a young age influences their views on gender roles later in life. This ultimately impacts the "quality" of the U.S. workforce and could have ripple effects on the economy for decades, she said, according to USA Today.

"We think it’s important for children’s media and toys to expose kids to diverse role models, and teach them a variety of skills so they can fulfill their potential and pursue their passion," Tchen said Tuesday during a conference call, the Washington Post reported.

Not everyone was impressed with the White House's latest initiative. Some on the right took to twitter to highlight issues that they considered more pressing than gender neutral toys.

 

Obama made headlines last year after installing the first-ever gender neutral bathroom in the White House.