Mermaids, Dolphin Trainers and Kindergarten Girls

Disney's Little Mermaid
Disney’s Little Mermaid

What Kindergarten Girls in Silicon Valley Aspire to Be (circa 2014)

By Steve Ko; cross-posted with permission from Medium.com

A few weekends ago, I brought my daughters (ages 4 and 7) to Snip-Its for their haircuts. Snip-Its is a hair salon for kids, and like many other businesses that cater to children, Snip-Its offers birthday party packages. One such birthday party was happening in the next room while my daughters were getting their haircuts.

According to the Snip-Its website, attendees of the “Hollywood Party” package are “transformed with fashion-forward Hollywood attire, glamorized with make-up, polished nails and an old (or new) Hollywood hairstyle their fans will love.”

The party culminated in a red carpet walk: a red carpet was unrolled down the main aisle of the hair salon, and each girl was introduced before walking down the red carpet with her newly styled hair and makeup. Each introduction followed the template: “This is <name>! She’s <age> years old. When she grows up, she wants to be a <future aspiration>.”

As each girl was introduced, I was curious to know what she aspired to. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was surprised and saddened by what I heard. This is the complete list of things the girls wanted to be: teacher, mermaid, dolphin trainer and princess.

What do all of these have in common? They are all roles/professions that are typically filled by women. 86% of teachers in primary education are women. I couldn’t find any statistics for dolphin trainers, but most that I have seen are women. Mermaids and princesses are by definition female. These are the most interesting roles that young girls see for women.

This particular Snip-Its was in Palo Alto, California, and even in this very progressive enclave, in the year 2014, young girls aspire to be mermaids and dolphin trainers. The experience cemented in my mind the importance of exposing my daughters to women in a variety of roles and professions. I want them to see more possibilities for themselves than what is typically portrayed for women in children’s toys and stories.


Full disclosure: My wife is a co-founder of SheHeroes, a non-profit organization that profiles exceptional women role models.

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