Toys Enjoyed in Childhood Lead Women to a Career in STEM

What was your dream job when you were growing up? Apparently, many of us took inspiration from the toys we played with, and these toys shaped out future. A favourite jigsaw that couldn’t be put down or a board game that was constantly played could have had a much stronger influence on a current career path than anyone may have previously thought.

To coincide with International Women’s Day and in the spirit of inspiring young girls to follow their dreams, Wicked Uncle the internet toy retailer wondered whether the toys they had played with had influenced women to work in STEM – and their research with the help of YouGov may surprise you.

Bar graph of favoured toys by women in STEM during their childhood

Wicked Uncle has a small but agile female-led marketing team who are constantly looking at searcher behaviour before and after the purchase. The team got talking about research topics and, of course, their favourite childhood toys.  Noticing some synergies, they decided to research whether other women in STEM had been influenced by childhood toys.

An initial Google survey circulated on Twitter and shared by Neil Gaiman, revealed that Women in STEM on Twitter who follow the author self-reported playing with Lego most as children and that it inspired them. As a creative toy it was unsurprising to see so many women in STEM self-reported playing with Lego, but a number also replied playing with computers and chemistry sets inspired them. In fact, there was a range of self-reported things that were played with and inspired women in to a STEM education or career, but was there a pattern?

To find out, Wicked Uncle worked with YouGov to survey over 4,000 GB adults, with 2,162 being women and, specifically, 992 being women either working in STEM, or educated in a STEM field. 80% of all women said that they enjoyed playing with board games as a child. Games such as Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit and Scrabble are heavily focused on being one step ahead of the other players. Being able to think clearly and manage many different components of a board game are difficult to learn as a child, but incredibly helpful for future learning.

The second most popular toys discovered by the YouGov survey were wooden toys and jigsaw puzzles. 65% of women said they enjoyed playing with these types of toys when they were children. Wooden toys and jigsaws require logical thinking and patience, with the main focus on problem solving. There are many STEM careers that benefit from these types of skills, such as an engineer or a surgeon.

Surprisingly, science sets were at the bottom of the list! Just 23% of women said they played with and enjoyed STEM related sets such as chemistry labs, science kits and solar system sets. This was different from the initial self-reported findings and show that perhaps Neil Gaiman on Twitter attracts women in STEM who have similar likes and interests.

It’s clear that not all toys have to be about learning. More women had plushies and baby dolls than science sets, making them the third most enjoyed toys by women (64%). This selection was followed by action figures and fashion dolls such as Barbie and Action Man, with 51% of women saying these were enjoyed when they were younger. Being in tune with your logical and deep-thinking side is key to be able to excel in a career in STEM. But these types of toys can help learn about compassion and caring about others, which is just as important. Sometimes, this can be a reason people choose a career path in cancer research or medicine.

Mike O’Shea from Wicked Uncle said: “The women that broke into the male dominated industry of STEM are an inspiration to young girls everywhere, and in the spirit of International Women’s Day, we wanted to celebrate that. Toys play a huge role in shaping a child’s skill set, helping them to learn more about what they’re interested in. It is great to see that these toys had such an impact on these women when they were younger. It’s interesting to see how these toys influence our future careers, and we hope to see young girls everywhere picking up a new toy this year, that will hopefully inspire them to follow their dreams and achieve great things.”


BGGD Reloaded #10 – Anthropology + Technology AND Networking

Apologies for missing a blog … the website was unfortunately out of action for a while, but it’s finally back and so is Bath GGD!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM

Sometimes we like to offer a mixed bag of useful things and that is what you will get tonight. I recently attended the Anthropology + Technology Conference in Bristol, the first of its kind in Bristol and full of exciting talks.

The subject itself is so important, I asked Dawn Walter (the event organiser) to speak to us tonight about it: The intersection of human and tech and why we need Anthropologists within this area of tech in the first place. (

When it comes to conferences, some of you may not like to attend due to the dreadful task of Networking. But worry no longer help is on the way:

How to network for people who hate people

Do you want to know how to talk to people in a business social context without panicking and/or wanting to curl up and die? It can suck to network as an introverted person, but bona fide introvert and professional networker Margaret Davidson from Mayden Academy has found some ways to make it work – and even, sometimes, be enjoyable. Find out some of her shortcuts to making networking less dreadful. (

And tonight the meeting will be hosted by Bath Spa Uni’s new Enterprise and Innovation Hub at Palace Yard Mews. It is freshly painted and looks good.

Hoping to see lots of you there! Sign up here on our meetup page.

GGD #78 CAV and Safety hosted by Scott Logic

CAV is Connected Autonomous Vehicles and is seen alongside electric and hydrogen (and others such as fuel cell) as the future of the transport network.
It is already here in large parts with robotic systems in warehouses, lorry convoys, the tesla semi-autonomous cars and now with the Heathrow pod fully autonomous systems and a new semi-autonomous bus system being supported to run in Scotland next year.

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GGD #77 Data Management and Security – a partnership with Lloyds Bank

We Have a couple of Great speakers for this month’s Girl Geek Dinner. As it is at Lloyds they have a strict security policy so could you all please ensure that you have a photo ID with you on the night.

Kate and Gudrun will do their talks on “Data Management and Security – a partnership”. 

There will also be a talk from their colleague Emily Turner about her career journey.  Emily works in our Chief Security Office in the “Business and External Engagement” team.

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If you can’t see it, just be it!

Too often women say they struggle to find relevant role models in tech.

Rather than moaning about there not being enough role models we need to pull our socks up and start becoming the role models for the next generation.

Ladies rather than looking for others to step up and become your role models, step up and take the mantle.

  • Be the role models
  • Share your stories
  • Support those coming into the industry
  • Mentor & advocate
  • Start shaping the industry
  • Make the rules
  • Share the triumphs and the failures
  • Be honest, open and inspirational
  • Be visible

If you are stuck on how you can do any of these. A quick Google search will tell you all about mentoring opportunities. There are loads of projects calling for inspirational stories of women working in tech. There are opportunities to network locally make yourself known to schools, other networks etc. Even within your own organisation… Share those stories you find and share your own!

Challenge the salary differences, stand up to being marginalized. Don’t take the past as a representation of how it will be in the future (that’s called conforming to stereotypes and stereotypes have a nasty way of self perpetuating unless they are challenged). Don’t accept poor excuses and bad manners. And this doesn’t just mean ladies have to do it all!

Men you too need to step up here. Male advocates for women in tech are in short supply. You too can support women in tech by doing all of the above and challenge those that stand in their way and yours! This is your industry too! Take some responsibility and ownership too, help shape it into an industry we can all be proud of! Here are a few tips on how you could do that.

This sector needs fundamental changes which means people need to believe this industry can and will change. Without these changes we limit the future of technology itself. No one wants that.

Let’s show the other industries that change can happen and fast. After all technology changes so rapidly why shouldn’t people…

We are Girl Geek Dinners but more importantly we are a voice for change.

BJSS speakers

GGD #76 Digital Exclusion and Double Diamonds with BJSS

Svetlana Tarnagurskaja

Svetlana is a Capability Lead for Product Management and Analysis at BJSS.
Svetlana’s experience spans across various facets of technology delivery and product management. Over the course of the last decade she was involved in leading delivery teams for some of the biggest transformation programmes in the UK, advised a number of start-ups in fashion, insurance and property sectors combined with being a busy mum of two girls.
Svetlana is a passionate advocate of design thinking and agile and loves nothing more than being a part of a team of talented technologists and designers building a great product together.

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JustEat speakers

GGD #75 Smart usability testing on a budget and upskilling with JustEat

Speaker announcement ..

Swetha sethu-jones
Swetha is a Senior UX Researcher at Just Eat with experience of over 10 years’ experience and wide range of projects spanning mobile, web and connected TV platforms. She enjoys employing a variety of methodologies to further understanding of how people use technology, and how it meets their needs.

Swetha’s also an avid board-gamer, Organiser of Things and a proud feminist! She loves traveling to cool places and eating tasty food (preferably at the same time). She also co-organises a series of research meetups called The Research Thing, which you should come to, as there is free wine, beer and nibbles…

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