Gender bias is deeply ingrained in the minds of people right from a very young age. It is not uncommon for people to think that appropriate toys for a male child include cars, trucks or robots, but that of a female child includes dolls, makeup sets or kitchen sets. In order to fight against this, the Lego Group has decided that it will work to remove gender stereotypes from its products and marketing.
The company announced the decision citing the results of a worldwide survey that found general attitudes toward kids’ play and creative careers remain “unequal and restrictive.” Julia Goldin, Lego’s chief marketing officer has said, “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.”
Lego has partnered with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media — a research organization that advocates for equal representation of women — to explore whether parents and kids see creativity as gendered. It surveyed nearly 7,000 people in seven countries which tested for implicit bias in how parents define creativity differently for their sons and their daughters. In it, parents of kids between the ages of 6 and 14 completed the first half of the survey, then passed it off to their children.
In summing up the study, Lego said that “girls are ready for the world but society isn’t quite ready to support their growth through play,” pointing to gender biases against its own products. The survey revealed that 76% of parents said they would encourage their sons to play with Legos, compared with 24% who would recommend Legos to their daughters.
The research revealed that “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.”
Boys feel more restrained in their choice of games
The research also revealed a whole another aspect with regards to the game choices of boys. It said that Girls feel less restrained by typical gender biases than boys when it comes to creative play. Some 74% of boys, and 62% of girls, expressed a belief that some activities are meant just for girls while others are meant for boys. Girls are also more open to different kinds of creative play than what their parents and society typically encourage, with 82% of girls believing it’s OK for girls to play football and boys to do ballet — compared with 71% of boys.
Boys also face prejudice when it comes to playing with toys traditionally perceived as feminine. The survey found that 71% of boys say they worry about being made fun of if they play with a toy typically associated with the other gender.
This has a lot to do with the parents and the way they bring up their children. This was confirmed by the survey which revealed that parents are almost five times as likely to encourage girls (over boys) to engage in activities like dance and dressing up and are more than three times as likely to do the same for cooking and baking. On the other hand, they’re almost four times as likely to encourage boys to engage in sports and more than twice as likely to do the same with coding toys.
Lego’s Further Plan of Action
Lego has pledged to collaborate with the Geena Davis Institute and UNICEF to remove gender biases and harmful stereotypes from its products and marketing. It has also published a 10-step guide for inspiring inclusive creative play and is releasing short films to highlight inspiring and entrepreneurial girls as part of a new “Ready for Girls” campaign. Lego’s efforts are part of a growing trend to make childhood toys more inclusive.