Connecticut high school student Antonia Ayres-Brown, 16, wrote to the CEO of McDonald's when she was just 11 years old expressing her dissatisfaction with the way customers were always asked if they preferred a toy for a girl or boy with their Happy Meal. According to her post on Slate, "My letter asked if it would be legal for McDonald’s to ask at a job interview whether someone wanted a man’s job or a woman’s job?” She soon received a reply from a customer service representative claiming that what she had experienced was not the norm as McDonald's does not train its employees to ask that question. This proved to be an unsatisfactory answer and set Antonia on a mission.
Together with her dad, Antonia visited over a dozen local Mickey D's and discovered that 79 percent of them, did, indeed, ask her which kind of toy she wanted. She eventually filed a complaint against McDonald's with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities for discriminating based on gender, and their claim was immediately dismissed as "absurd." Well, Antonia doesn't quit so easily.
Now she and her dad sent 30 kids of both genders, ages 7 to 11, to 15 different McDonald's franchises to further validate their position. What they found was even more shocking. This time, almost 93 percent of the kids were given gender-specific toys without even being asked which toy they preferred, simply based on the gender of the child. One girl was even given a toy for "girls" despite specifically asking for the one for "boys." So Antonia once again decided to contact McDonald's CEO, now Donald Thompson. Except, this time, she got a personal response back from the company's Chief Diversity Officer.
“It is McDonald’s intention and goal that each customer who desires a Happy Meal toy be provided the toy of his or her choice, without any classification of the toy as a ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ toy and without any reference to the customer’s gender. ... We have recently reexamined our internal guidelines, communications and practices, and are making improvements to better ensure that our toys are distributed consistent with our policy.”
DoSomething.org even recently posted a picture on its Facebook wall of an announcement posted for employees at a McDonald's that reads: “When a customer orders a happy meal, you must ask, ‘Will that be a My Little Pony toy? Or a Skylanders toy?’ We will no longer refer to them as ‘boy or girl toys.’"
So will all of the Golden Arches franchises finally come onboard? Only time will tell. All we know is no one messes with one Antonia Ayres-Brown.