The Colour Deconstruct
“Daddy, there are girls playing football!”, my three-year-old daughters exclaimed last summer when the Women’s World Cup was on the BBC, their eyes wide and gripped by the game. The surprise in their voices audible.
I’d like to think I’m a conscientious parent. Supportive, open-minded and progressive. I have twin girls, and my life is dedicated to their present and future happiness. I want them to achieve all their dreams in life.
However, as I sat there, it dawned on me that I was already in a race against time. The responsibility to counter gender stereotypes is here and now, even at their tender age.
Their perceptions are being shaped daily. Their minds sponge-like – processing and making sense of this confusing world.
Seeing is believing, as they say, so what else do they not yet recognise as a female pursuit?
Until I had children, I hadn’t considered how deep-rooted and powerful the ‘pink vs blue’ construct is. This idea of boy things and girl things is so antiquated, but yet here in 2020 it’s still so prevalent.
It is no wonder that the rate of progress in the workplace is so agonisingly slow for gender equality. We are our own worst enemies.
Take, for example, the age appropriate TV programmes my kids watch. The equality lens is in evident application, with consideration given to gender balancing and promoting positive female role models in non-traditional roles. This is undoubtedly wonderful progress.
However, this progress is undermined immediately by the ‘toy’ adverts that intersperse these programmes, which only serve to reinforce the pink vs blue construct. Boys playing with superheroes, dinosaurs and racing cars, and girls advertising Disney princesses, dollies and hair accessories.
Whilst at home, we can work on deconstructing this old-fashioned pink vs blue agenda, but we as parents can’t do it alone.
We must all feel the deep responsibility of breaking down these limiting gender constraints in the formative years of our little ones’ lives.
They need to know that all options are open to them. That every opportunity is possible. They need to feel encouraged and inspired. They need positive influence. They need to see female representation, female visibility, female role models and female success stories. Everywhere, and all around.
As our new venture gets off the ground this year, we are working incredibly hard to ensure that the rate of change is accelerated. It’s time for action. For strength in numbers. For male allyship for gender equality.
Reinforcing the notion to our own children that they can be whatever they want to be in life is imperative, but how do we ensure that this message is delivered and reinforced across a generation?
Removing pink and blue thinking is key, but my goodness, we are up against it from the start.