Browsing through the children's book section, you might notice a common theme among the books targeted toward girls:
And, look, there's absolutely nothing wrong with pink and princesses. But let's be honest: There aren't a whole lot of job openings for princesses these days. What about books that tell girls they can grow up to be anything they want, like firefighters and police officers?
Enter Charles C. Dowd, a dad who decided it was about time to remind our girls they can do — and be — anything. And he's doing it with this awesome board book.
Dowd was inspired to write "The A to Z Guide to Jobs for Girls" after he and his son, a junior in high school, were talking about college majors and career options. His younger daughter piped in, and before he knew it, they were deep in a conversation about why boys can do certain things that girls cannot.
"That led to a conversation about traditional and stereotypical gender roles and why none of that really applies in modern society," Dowd told me. "It also pointed out to me that regardless of how encouraging my wife and I are, our daughter is still being influenced by friends, teachers, media, and everyone else."
And so the book idea — with the tagline "You can be anything you want to be!" — was born.
'Cause the thing is, girls can be anything they want, like a chef:
Or a heavy metal guitarist:
Or a librarian:
Dowd doesn't hate pink and princesses nor does he have a problem with our kids' varying interests.
But, as he says, society "likes to tell kids that there are boy things and girl things, but in my opinion, they're all just things."
"Why can't girls play with normal Legos? Why do they have to have special pink ones?" he wonders. "It makes no sense. Why can't a girl play with Hot Wheels? Why can't a girl aspire to be a professional athlete? Why can't girls be strong?"
All good questions!
And the fact is, gender bias in books is real.
Florida State University led "the most comprehensive study of 20th century children's books ever undertaken in the United States." This probably won't come as a shocker, but what they found is that there's a gender bias toward male lead characters — even in books about animals.
Janice McCabe, assistant professor of sociology, led the study. She noted:
"The widespread pattern of underrepresentation of females that we find supports the belief that female characters are less important and interesting than male characters. This may contribute to a sense of unimportance among girls and privilege among boys. The gender inequalities we found may be particularly powerful because they are reinforced by patterns of male-dominated characters in many other aspects of children's media, including cartoons, G-rated films, video games and even coloring books."
Let's fix that — for all of our kids.
At the end of the day, Dowd's goal is simple: "I just think it's important to teach kids (and adults for that matter) that gender really doesn't have anything to do with choosing a career path. If a person has the drive, determination, and the talent, they can pretty much pursue any career path they choose.
Dowd is running a Kickstarter so he can publish the book. As of the end of September 2015, he's pretty close to being funded. If you're interested in supporting him and getting your own copy of "The A to Z Guide to Jobs for Girls," you can head over to his page and make a contribution.