Young Black girl playing with a Black babydoll.

Equal Play? Analyzing Gender Stereotypes, Diversity, and Inclusion in Advertising and Marketing for the Most Popular Toys of 2022

Toys aren’t just for fun. Toys and games help children develop cognitively and impart a broad range of social, emotional, and physical skills. Although it has varied over time, children’s toys have been coded in ways that clearly convey expectations about distinctively gendered interests, tastes, and preferences, and they are even segregated into separate and clearly identifiable aisles in toy stores. Recently, on social media and in other media, parents have expressed concerns about the socializing power of children’s toys and questioned whether the messages the toys and their marketing convey limits children’s imaginations and experiences. In this report, we investigated whether advertisements that market today’s most popular toys continue to rely on gender stereotypes or move beyond the gender binary. We also examined representation in terms of diversity and inclusion based on who was featured in the advertisements.

To carry this out, we conducted a content analysis of 175 advertisements for toys listed as “best selling” by the top-three toy retailers (Target, Walmart, and Amazon) as of March 2022. The results suggest gender stereotypes remain very prevalent in popular children’s toys. For example:

These results suggest that in some ways toy advertising is fostering an inclusive world for play, but in other ways toy advertising still reinforces norms that encourage distinct gender roles and interests through play. To help disrupt reliance on gender tropes and stereotypes, and broaden diversity and inclusion in toy advertising and marketing, consider using our checklist:

For a full list of recommendations and other interesting findings, please download the full report.

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