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Find Who

Find Who was the design outcome of a research project that began by looking into gender equality and gender-based biases. The aim was to conduct extensive research into the matter, define a problem, and use the findings to come up with a design outcome.

Client: NA
Scope: Design Research,  Game Design
Year: 2020

Read Time: 10 minutes

Next, I began looking into some of the structures that enabled gender inequality. I looked into areas like how how pregnancy,  the number of children, work policies and support for mothers and children,  fertility rates, Childcare and Family-Oriented Policies of different countries, poverty, life expectancy of different genders, mental health, and existing gender roles affect the opportunities, and quality of life of women. I mapped out these findings in an affinity map to help sort similar themes together in order to narrow down my area of focus for the project.

I took the United Nations’s 5th Sustainable Development Goal: Gender Equality as the starting point of my research. SDG 5aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, by reducing the exploitation and violence against women and girls and increasing the opportunities available to them. My process started with a quick PESTLE analysis to understand the multi-faceted nature of the problem. The analysis was as shown below. 

I also then made a systems map, to help me filter the vast amount of data I had collected upto this point and visualize the interconnected nature of many of these factors contributing to gender inequality.

Two areas stood out from my system map that I could explore further.
1. Gender stereotyping in early childhood: Research shows that a child’s understanding of gender and gender roles can originate from the age of 3 years old.  Watching their own parents take up different responsibilities, clothes and toys being of different colours, toys being of different textures an colours for different genders, depiction of genders in movies, books and on tv and the way children’ products are advertised towards different genders can all contribute to the forming of gender based stereotypes in young children.
2. Gender Pay Gap: Through my research, I saw that women bear the primary caregiving and domestic responsibilities in most families, and in most cases there is seen an unequal distribution of house work. This gives them lesser time to contribute to their careers, which has many women choosing part-time jobs. This reduces opportunities for career growth and leaves men more likely to get promoted to higher positions. This also leaves women with a lower average salary and lower savings as well, which leaves women with less to invest and build wealth. All of these contribute to the gender pay gap we see today.

I decided to take forward the topic of gendering in early childhood and further understand the factors that influence it. At this point I drew out a stakeholder map, that would help me see all the different people and organisations related to the issue,  and begin to think about which of these stakeholders I could approach for my primary research.

Understanding origins of gender roles and stereotypes: A Summary

1. Children are unaware of gendered expectations and attitudes when born. But by age 2, most children are conscious of the social relevance of gender. By age 5, they have a clear developed sense of what is expected of boys and girls and how they are supposed to behave.
2. Parents create a “gendered world” for their young infants by providing different toys and clothing to boys and girls and by furnishing their rooms in gendered ways.
3. Research has shown that parents encourage girls to engage in feminine-typed play and boys to engage in masculine-typed play, and were uncomfortable with their children engaging in play which is gender atypical.
4. Almost 90% of teachers in primary schools were found to be women. This has been cited as a contributing factor to the development of gender stereotypes and identities.
5. Pre-school children have the tendency to “police” other children, ridiculing those who show behaviour that does not conform to certain gender norms.
6. It was found that girls’ toys were associated with physical attractiveness, nurturing, and domestic skill, whereas boys’ toys were rated as violent, competitive, exciting, and somewhat dangerous.
7. A study showed that in children films, female characters were six times more likely to partake in housework than their male counterparts. Male characters also took up more active roles as compared to female characters 

All of these factors together contribute to gender stereotyping in young kids. However, this too, was an extremely wide area of focus. Hence, I decided to focus solely on:
The impact of gendering of toys in early childhood

I then began my primary research to further understand how toys are gendered and the impact of this phenomenon on young children and their understanding of gender as they age.  My primary research methods included:
1. Interviews (with teachers, parents and toy store employees, young adults)
2. A digital survey with New-Age Parents and Parents with children between the ages 3-8: The survey collected data on what attributes parents find most important while selecting toys for their children, what toys their kids currently have, their opinions on gendered toys and their thoughts on their children engaging in gender atypical play.
3. Study of Toys from the 1970s to current: I researched on the top ten mot popular toys in each decade from this time period. I looked up how these toys were packaged and marketed, the kind of marketing language used around the toys, the changing theme of play, the audience that was shown playing with them, the environments they situated themselves into, etc. The purpose of this activity was to see how the gendering of toys evolved with time and how perceptions around certain toys changed along the years.
4. A day at a toy store: I spent a day visiting a popular toy store, to understand the placement and marketing of different categories of toys within the store. I also shadowed a few people and observed their behaviour towards certain categories of toys and tried to understand perceptions associated with them.

Key insights & findings: A Summary

1. Toys are usually gendered through colour (Toys ‘for boys’ are primarily in blue and red, while those ‘for girls’ are primarily pink and purple), Shape & Texture (A lot of toys meant ‘for boys’ have been seen to have stronger builds and material, while soft toys and furry toys are still marketed more for girls than for boys), and though Type of play (Most toys ’for girls’ encourage more passive play, through barbies, dollhouses, etc and show limited development of motor skills amongst children. Toys ‘for boys’ have been seen to include a more active game play and more strategy based play)
2. Gender Stereotypes usually stem from children’sobservations of men & women in their social roles, at as young as 3 years of age
3. Parents are more comfortable with girls engagingwith ‘masculine toys’ rather than boys engaging with’feminine toys’.
4. There can be seen stark differences in the skillsencouraged in toys marketed ‘for girls’ and ‘for boys’. Strongly gendered toys and games may foster unintended attributes; Emphasizes beauty andattractiveness in girls, and violence and aggression in boys.
5. Children are more willing to play with counter-stereotypic toys and games if they are presented in gender stereotypic colours.
6. Gender Neutral toys may not help reduce gender bias as they can tend to promote the absence of gender rather than the tolerance of it.
7. The gendering of toys is a relatively new age phenomenon. More importantly, there were many ads in the ‘70s that actively challenged gender stereotypes—boys were shown playing with domestic toys and girls were shown building and enacting stereotypically masculine roles such as doctor, carpenter, and scientist. Only around 2% of the toys during this eraser marketed explicitly towards one gender.

1. Different kind of toys encourage and facilitate different skills, and are not always desirable. This gap is widest with extremely gendered toy, 
2. Femininity is viewed as ‘weak’ or ‘lesser than’ masculinity.
3. An ideal situation would be one where we reach not a state of absense of gender, but one where we build tolerance towards gender and what that means for individuals.

I then started thinking about areas of innovation. I started out by formulating what exactly I was looking to do through my design innovation.  I wanted to look at:
How might we encourage and build a healthy, inclusive outlook towards both traditionally masculine and feminine traits in young children (ages 3-7)

I then drew out a How Might We Matrix listing out the main stakeholders involved in this ecosystem and thought about individual ideas that may help me facilitate the objective I was looking at within each of these segments. 

I decided to create a card game for kids between ages 3-7 that could be played at school or at home with their peers. And that brings us to my design intervention, ‘Guess Who’

Find Who is a card game activity that teachers could play with their students in class. I decided that the best place to situate this game would be in a classroom, as according to my data (from digital survey), only 37.8% of parents were comfortable with their sons engaging with feminine toys as opposed to 80.3% of parents that were comfortable with their daughters engaging with masculine toys, indicating that there is some negative preconceptions about femininity. So having an activity like this in a neutral territory like a classroom where children may not be influenced by external gender biases could prove to be more helpful in building an inclusive, and outlook towards all genders. 

The game consisted of a set a character cards, and a set of problem cards. Each character card describes 3 facts about person onthe card. Each child gets a set of 3 character cards at random. The children take turns picking a problem card from the problem card pile. Upon reading the problem on the card, the kids try to see if they can match any of the characters they have on their cards to the situation mentioned of the problem card. If they can, they make a pair, if they can’t, they return the problem card to the bottom of the pile and continue so on. The first person to make 3 successful pairs wins. The concept behind the game was to encourage children to look beyond gender and appearance and focus on the skills and personality of the characters themselves.

The card were made with a lot of care and sensitivity to gender roles. I decided to add activities and characteristics that would probably not be gender-conforming for the characters in question. For example, some of the cards show girls being interested in cars, and science and boys being good dancers and bakers. This was done in order to break inhibitions about gender roles and show that masculinity and femininity can exist together and are not mutually exclusive. The cards also tried to include people of various ethnicities and race and even include non-binary characters by including people with gender neutral names, attires and haircuts.

The game even included a few blank cards for children to fill out themselves. This would give them an opportunity to describe and illustrate themselves in a way that feels authentic to them, free of judgement, in a fun setting and use these cards within the game after. This would help children get more interested in the game and help get to know each other better.

To check out my process video, go to:
To have a go at one round of the game yourself, skip to 5:02 of the video!

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