LEGO Is Working to Rid Its Toys of Perceived Gender Biases

Fatima (left) and Shaika (right), high-aspiring, LEGO-loving sisters in the United Arab Emirates.
Fatima (left) and Shaika (right), high-aspiring, LEGO-loving sisters in the United Arab Emirates. / The LEGO Group

In honor of the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl on October 11, the LEGO Group teamed up with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media for a campaign called Ready for Girls, “which celebrates girls who rebuild the world through creative problem solving.”

While creating the campaign, the Geena Davis Institute conducted a survey of some 7000 parents and kids across the globe—including in China, the Czech Republic, Japan, Poland, Russia, the UK, and the U.S.—to pinpoint how gender biases are impacting children’s mindsets and creative development.

As NPR reports, the results were promising on at least one front: Many young girls don’t feel boxed in by the societal expectation that they stick to traditionally feminine activities. Of those surveyed, 82 percent of girls think it’s fine for girls to pursue football and boys to try ballet; and only 42 percent of girls reported a concern that they’d be ridiculed for playing with toys usually geared toward boys. Unfortunately, 71 percent of boys worry about being made fun of for playing with “girl” toys, and 74 percent (compared to 62 percent of girls) still think certain activities are specific to boys or girls.

Furthermore, parents are still doing quite a bit of boxing their kids into binary roles and mindsets. Those who participated in the study were nearly five times more likely to encourage girls to dance or play dress-up than boys; and about four times as likely to direct boys over girls toward programming games and sports. The trend extends to LEGO, too—an implicit bias test revealed that only 24 percent of parents would suggest that their daughter play with LEGO, while 76 percent would encourage a son to do so.

To dismantle these tendencies, the LEGO Group explained in a press release that it plans to “work closely with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and UNICEF to ensure LEGO products and marketing are accessible to all and free of gender bias and harmful stereotypes.”

The company also released a guide [PDF] to help parents do their part, too. The free infographic comprises “10 steps to inspire creative play,” including suggestions like asking your child to “perform the role of characters of a different gender in a book or during play,” and refraining from “redirecting them to more traditionally ‘acceptable’ activities” if they gravitate toward something unconventional.

“The benefits of creative play, such as building confidence, creativity, and communication skills, are felt by all children, and yet we still experience age-old stereotypes that label activities as only being suitable for one specific gender. At the LEGO Group we know we have a role to play in putting this right,” the LEGO Group’s chief marketing officer, Julia Goldin, said in a press release. “All children should be able to reach their true creative potential.”

[h/t NPR]