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Lego to remove gender bias from its toys

"Our job now is to encourage boys and girls who want to play with sets that may have traditionally been seen as 'not for them.'"

Lego to remove gender bias from its toys
Cover Image Source: Lego enthusiasts attend the Bricklive at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Center on July 20, 2017 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The world's largest toymaker announced this week that it will work to remove gender stereotypes from its toys. Lego made the announcement in response to a global survey, commissioned by Lego and conducted by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, that found that attitudes to play and future careers remain unequal and restrictive. "Despite the progress made in girls brushing off prejudice at an early age, general attitudes surrounding play and creative careers remain unequal and restrictive," the Danish company known said in a statement on Monday — which was also the United Nations Day of the Girl — reports The Washington Post.


"Girls today feel increasingly confident to engage in all types of play and creative activities, but remain held back by society's ingrained gender stereotypes as they grow older," the statement added. Through the Ready for Girls Creativity Study, researchers found that while young girls are becoming more confident and willing to participate in activities that cut across "gender norms," the same could not be said about boys. According to The Guardian, 71% of boys surveyed feared they would get teased if they played with what they considered "girls' toys."


"Parents are more worried that their sons will be teased than their daughters for playing with toys associated with the other gender," said Madeline Di Nonno, the chief executive of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, who conducted the research. "But it's also that behaviours associated with men are valued more highly in society. Until societies recognise that behaviours and activities typically associated with women are as valuable or important, parents and children will be tentative to embrace them." The study — which surveyed almost 7000 parents and children aged six to 14 from China, the Czech Republic, Japan, Poland, Russia, UK, and the US — also found that parents still encourage boys to take up sports or Stem activities, while offering dance, dressing up, or baking to their daughters.


"These insights emphasise just how ingrained gender biases are across the globe," said Geena Davis, the Oscar-winning actor and activist who set up the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media in 2004 to combat negative gender stereotyping and foster inclusion. Prof Gina Rippon, a neurobiologist and author of The Gendered Brain, explained that the "asymmetry" of "[encouraging] girls to play with 'boys' stuff' but not the other way around," was a problem since toys offered "training opportunities."


"So if girls aren't playing with Lego or other construction toys, they aren't developing the spatial skills that will help them in later life. If dolls are being pushed on girls but not boys, then boys are missing out on nurturing skills," she said. Julia Goldin, the chief product and marketing officer at the Lego Group, said that the company is "working hard to make Lego more inclusive. Traditionally, Lego has been accessed by more boys, but products like [arts and crafts line] Lego Dots or Lego City Wildlife Rescue Camp have been specifically designed to appeal to boys and girls."


Goldin added that Lego no longer labelled any of its products "for girls" or "for boys." On its website, consumers cannot search for products by gender and are instead offered themes that Lego calls "passion points." "We're testing everything on boys and girls, and including more female role models," said Goldin. "Our job now is to encourage boys and girls who want to play with sets that may have traditionally been seen as 'not for them.'"

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