Growing up in a time when I had no access to the numerous gadgets that children have today, I played with real friends and not virtual ones. There were many boys and girls of my age group in the area I lived in. Every evening we would play for hours, be it outdoor games or in our homes with our toys.
When in a group, we all brought our toys and played together, so there was no noticeable differentiation. But as I grew a little older, there were some things I did not understand. Whenever someone came home with gifts for me, it was usually Barbie dolls, kitchen sets and dollhouses. And not that I didn’t like playing with those, but it was a few years later that it struck me that my liking had got nothing to do with it. People thought that such toys are “meant” for girls. In contrast to this, I saw my male friends receiving cars, remote control airplanes and military tank miniatures as gifts. And my 8-year-old-self started believing that this was how it is, that girls are supposed to play with pink colored toys and dolls, and boys got all the bikes and race track toys. But then, this wasn’t enough to convince me.
I wondered why no one ever thought “What if she likes to play with remote control toys and cars and choppers?” And that stuck with me for years. I know that it’s a very minor thing but the reason I feel so strongly about this is because I believe that it is ultimately the smaller things that lead to a bigger change. It’s not only charity that begins at home, everything does. These little instances become the foundation of a person’s thinking as they become adults. This is the reason behind the lesser number of women found in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) related professions even though their share in the STEM education sector in India as students is 43%, which is highest in the world.
“Most of the women STEM graduates in India either pursue another career or do not work at all. That is really a waste of talent. In Sweden, we produce fewer STEM graduates (than in India), but employ almost all of them,” Heland told Business Line. Unfortunately, stereotypes from an early age lead to a restriction in choices, especially related to career. Everyone has a right to choose and by making their choices for them we inhibit their ability to explore and learn. So maybe these are little things, but they count as much or maybe more than the big ones.