Menu & Search

The Color of Coding Toys (3 Reasons Why Pink is a Definite No No)

The Color of Coding Toys (3 Reasons Why Pink is a Definite No No)

Pink was historically a man’s color and programming was woman’s work. So when did it all go wrong? The color coding of genders should never have gotten this far and shouldn’t be dividing children from the moment they are born.

Up until my daughter was about 2 years old, there was nothing pink in the house. Any toys I got were neutral colors and clothes too. I’d grown up drowning in pink and was determined not to do the same to my child. Fast forward a few years and you need sunglasses to go into her bedroom. Every shade of pink and purple imaginable.

I know how it happened, I firmly blame the toy market. You can’t miss the color coding divide when you walk into a toy shop. Aisles and rows of pink dolls, pink Lol dolls, Barbie, Shimmer and Shine, I could go on. Take a turn to the boys’ section, robots, dinosaurs, superheroes. Yes, there is the DC Superhero section for girls and other non-pinkish toys, but it’s pretty overwhelmingly pink in general.

If someone asks my daughter what she likes to do, she will say, play with dolls, robots, Lego and do arts and crafts. But I’m as guilty as the next for sitting back and indulging the pinkification of the toy market.

It has been suggested before that if you want to get girls into coding, just make the coding toys pink. Here are three strong reasons why that is a definite NO NO.

1. Pink Encourages the Gender Divide

Pink is symbolic of the gender gap and it hinders the movement to get girls into coding. The tech industry is dominated by men, but things are starting to change. Girls and boys growing up now should be exposed to the same color of educational toys that teach coding. These educational toys can have a pink color present, but it must be accompanied by several other colors. It would appear that orange is the safe substitute for pink and even purple is acceptable.

littlebits use fun colorful branding for their circuit bits. You’ll find bright pinks, oranges, blues and greens. Wonder Workshop recently released a green and orange Dot Creativity Robot, which was previously blue. Also, Lego Boost added some orange to their blue and white Lego.

Career Barbie is looking less pink too. Her latest job is in Robotics.

Color coding toys also contributes to the ‘Pink Tax’, where feminine products cost more than their male counterparts. An article in Fortune explains that by making something pink, parents pay more.

2. Pink Excludes Boys

Pink might attract more girls, but it works both ways. By making a toy pink, you’re excluding boys and gender stereotyping objects. It’s more challenging to get boys to play with pink toys, than it is to get girls to play with blue. But pink wasn’t always a girl only color. An article in the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department in June 1918 said:

The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.

Realistically what can be done about the nonsense of pink, you might ask. In theory, it’s easy to say to parents, just don’t buy pink toys and they’ll stop making them but in practice it’s difficult. I’m in the same position as most parents. The local toy store is awash with pink and all the morally unisex toys are designed by small companies sold online. At the moment my only choice is to never visit a toy store with the kids, shop online and stop them watching ads on TV, plus deleting YouTube.

The only real hope of change comes from changing legislation.

In the UK, the Let Toys Be Toys group have petitioned retailers to remove ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ signage from stores and websites and continue with their grassroots campaign to have toys labeled by their theme or function, instead of gender.

The Advertising Standards Agency is bringing in a new rule that says:

Advertisements must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.

The rule also says:

Ads can be targeted at and feature a specific gender but should take care not to explicitly convey that a particular children’s product, pursuit, activity, including choice of play or career, is inappropriate for one or another gender.

3. Pink Doesn’t Promote Learning

Close your eyes. Think of the word learning and then say the first color that pops into your head. It certainly isn’t pink. The pinkification of toys has been going on for decades and the damage is done. Pink is not associated with teaching and learning and the color has a certain stigma. Learning about programming, sequencing and coding languages shouldn’t come with tons of baggage, it’s not fair to those who just want to learn.

The impact of pink on gender stereotyping is out of date, and it doesn’t fit with technology that is constantly evolving. Coding should be about coding and the color of the equipment and accessories is irrelevant. Why make a laptop pink? Pinkifying products isn’t going to change the content of the learning material. If a math book has a pink cover, it won’t make any difference to the difficulty one has understanding formulas. How the math is taught, the teachers, the projects, lesson plans and the environment is what makes the difference between a bored student and an energised learner.

Pink Laptops Gender Divide
Apple, Sony VAIO and Vtech Rose Gold/Pink Laptops

The stigma and negativity attached to the color pink is not something educational brands want their products to be a part of. Color communicates a brand image. Coding for kids is fresh and modern, and many EdTech toys start their life as Kickstarter projects and simply would not get funding for a pink coding toy.

Whether or not coding toys actually teach any programming is another blog post, but one thing is for sure. Making them pink is a definite NO NO.