Lego to remove gender bias from its toys to make brand ‘more inclusive’

Lego has said it will remove gender stereotypes from its toys after commissioning a global survey that found boys feared they would be “made fun of” if they played with products aimed at girls. 

The Danish company, which is the largest toymaker in the world, has long found its products are more popular among boys than girls.

Following research published to coincide with the UN International Day of the Girl, Lego said it would focus on creating products aimed at both genders.

Lego, which had sales of some £5bn last year, commissioned the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media to survey around 7,000 parents and children aged six to 14 from around the world. 

Seventy-one per cent of boys would not want to play with girls’ toys because they would worry about being mocked by their peers or adults, the report found. The same was not true of girls, who were happy to play with toys marketed at the opposite gender.

It also found that parents were more likely to encourage their daughters to dress up, dance or bake, while boys were more frequently pushed towards taking part in ‘STEM’ activities: Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths.  

The Lego logo is pictured above the main gate of the new Legoland New York Resort theme park

Credit: Mike Segar/Reuters

Julia Goldin, the chief product and marketing officer at the Lego Group, said of the decision: “We’re 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,” she told The Guardian.

Madeline Di Nonno, the chief executive of the Geena Davis institute, said that boys were worried about playing with girls’ toys because behaviours associated with men are more highly valued by 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,” she said.

Lego has been researching how girls interact with its brand for more than a decade. In 2008, it found that 90 per cent of sets sold in the United States were being bought for boys. 

The company, founded in 1932 by carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen, has come into criticism in recent years for enforcing gender binaries. 

Athene Donald, a professor of experimental physics and master of Churchill College, Cambridge, said Lego had regressed since the 1970s when it comes to promoting gender equality.

She pointed to a letter that appeared in Lego boxes in 1974 which called for parents to look past gender stereotypes, and argued that “we have gone a long way backwards since then”.

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