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Little Miss Inventor Sparks Debate

Published on Monday, 9th July 2018, contributed by OggaDoon

The best way to educate is to entertain, and many of us can remember the nursery rhymes and lessons learned from our childhoods. Whether it’s how to cross the road, or how much a parent loves you, the subliminal (or not so subliminal) messages often stick with us throughout our lives, making them even more important to get right.

After all, a six-year global study discovered that our gender stereotype expectations are set from the age of 10. So how is one beloved children’s brand combating this, and why have they got into trouble regardless?

Little Miss Inventor has joined the Mr Men and Little Miss series: an engineer with a spanner in her curly hair and a few pencils jammed in there for good measure. A character who, in the words of her creator Adam Hargreaves (son of original creator, Roger Hargreaves), has a, “brain full of ideas, which she turns into extraordinary inventions in a shed at the bottom of her garden”.

It sounds idyllic, and for many people on social media when the news was announced today, it was. Women are poorly represented in the STEM subjects at school level, and continue to be a small proportion of those working in technology and engineering. Why not create a character that shows young girls – and boys – that any gender can be interested in tinkering and creating new things?

Yet not all of the conversations were positive. Some have pointed out that it’s still incredibly demeaning to have a children’s series where the male characters are treated as adults (Mr Men), and the female characters as children (Little Miss). Others have asked why the character has to have glasses, with one wondering ironically if she’ll fling them off in one book and suddenly become beautiful, a la every 90s chick flick ever made.

Here at OggaDoon, we meet intelligent women working at all levels in the technology world, but we’re fortunate, and if the stats are true, unusual. Only 5% of start-ups are owned by women, with only 11% of executive positions in Silicon Valley held by women. Just 2% of venture capitalist dollars were invested in women-led companies in 2016, and women are offered lower salaries than men for the same role 63% of the time.

So while Little Miss Inventor – or Ms Inventor, if you prefer to see her that way – is certainly a good start, let’s not lose sight of the fact that greater diversity of all kinds is needed for companies to grasp at their true potential.

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