In a statement released yesterday, the White House announced plans for a day-long conference aimed specifically at “breaking down gender stereotypes in media and toys so that our children can explore, learn, and dream without limits.” On board to discuss the best ways to meet this critical challenge, which the White House notes will affect “the composition of our workforce and the strength of our economy for decades to come,” will be representatives from toy, media, and retail companies; leaders of youth-serving organizations; parents; researchers; advocates; and others.

From the White House press release…

Research shows that children’s interests, ambitions, and skills can be shaped early on by the media they consume and the toys with which they play, potentially influencing everything from the subjects they choose to study to the careers they ultimately pursue. Consequently, those early experiences can affect not just their development and life choices, but the composition of our workforce and the strength of our economy for decades to come.

For example, right now, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) industries offer some of the highest-paying, most in-demand careers – there are over 600,000 unfilled jobs in information technology alone – yet women hold only 29 percent of STEM jobs. Communities across America are also experiencing teacher shortages, and nursing is one of the fastest-growing professions – yet fewer than 25 percent of public school teachers and only 9 percent of nurses are men. 

In order to help close these gender gaps in our workforce, children need to be exposed to diverse role models and taught a variety of skills so they can develop their talents and pursue their passions without limits, and so that we as a nation can meet the needs of our economy in the coming years.

The conference is being sponsored by the White House Council on Women and Girls, The Department of Education, and the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California. The following companies and organizations have committed to taking new action to echo its mission:

  • Discovery Communications
  • FamilyFun magazine
  • Girls Inc.
  • Girl Scouts
  • Netflix
  • Parents magazine
  • Participant Media
  • Scholastic
  • TIME for Kids magazine
  • The Toy Industry Association, Inc.