In 1981, Lego put out an iconic advertisement of a little girl proudly holding a creation made of red, blue, green, yellow bricks. Back in those days, Legos weren’t just for boys — they were for all children.
But look down the aisles at any toy store and you’ll immediately see that many toys (not just Legos) are gender-specific. When it comes to the plastic blocks, the kits geared towards boys consist of secret agents, dragons, spaceships and robots. For girls, there are the Lego Friends sets complete with butterflies, pool parties, beauty parlors, and pinks and purples.
And perhaps as a result of the gender discrepancy, these blocks are no longer clicking with all children.
As the Human Rights Campaign reports, fourth and fifth grade students at Shorewood Hills Elementary in Madison, Wisconsin, studied 600 Lego sets and came up with some problematic stats. The findings are published on their site WhatItIsIsBeautiful.com (cleverly named after that 1981 ad).
The student researchers analyzed Lego beings and found that there were more robots, aliens and animals combined than there were girl figures. (The breakdown: 75 percent boys, 12 percent girls, 8 percent robots and aliens, 5 percent animals.)
Additionally, they also discovered that of 406 human Lego figures, an overwhelming majority — 94 percent — represented European cultures.
In a series of poignant letters, the youngsters wrote to the Danish brand, pleading for more gender and cultural diversity. One student asked the company, “First of all, why do almost all the girls in Lego have to be baking and suntanning? I love to bake, but it’s not like I cannot do rock climbing or snowboarding.”
Another student wrote, “I think you should stop assuming that boys like blowing stuff up and girls like pink. I’m a boy and, personally I like pink. I think you should remove the whole Lego friends thing and make more girl figures. Maybe you could also add some African American Lego people.”
Remarkably, Lego spokesperson Steve Clines actually wrote back, acknowledging all the students’ criticisms (Read his response here).
“It’s true we currently have more male than female minifigures in our assortment. We completely agree that we need to be careful about the roles our female figures play — we need to make sure they’re part of the action and have exciting adventures, and aren’t just waiting to be rescued.”
He added that Lego is having “many conversations” about the concerns the students have raised and their comments will be shared with the Marketing and Development teams.
“After all,” Clines says, “we want to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow: that means both boys and girls, everywhere in the world!”
Sounds like these kids are literally the building blocks of change.