I was reading an article today entitled “Lego addresses gender gap with female scientist range”. Lego is introducing a new set, to include a chemist, an astronomer and a palaeontologist, all women. WOW! The Danish toymaker has launched the female figures with science jobs following a campaign to address gender bias issues. I cannot imagine a smaller step, albeit in the right direction.
Let me explain. If you take a look at their website, you will see Lego feature four main pictures on the home page, gender neutral monsters, men only super hero, a men-only building site and women only friends posing in a range of modern provocative stances. Perhaps the men on the building site are wolf-whistling at them!
Nearly every page of the Lego website seems to have has a product for girls, it doesn’t say so specifically but the evidence of pink is there to be seen. Indeed, on each of the pages there is predominance of male orientated merchandise. On glancing through the site it appears that less than 10% is directed towards girls – until you get to the “creative” tab on the Games page. Here pink predominates as do the themes: Beauty Salon Game, Pool Party Game, Dressing up Game etc. Clearly not for boys!
I grew up when Lego was a toy for all. There were very few complete sets to buy, just blocks of various sizes and colours, windows and doors and the occasional wheel, hinge or connector. The result was a completely gender neutral toy which was also reflected in Lego’s advertising. As the toy has changed, so has the marketing, but is that an indictment of Lego or of our broader society?
The Boardroom of Lego (Statistics from their website) reflects similar gender ratio to the products – six men and one woman, whilst their management board has three women to twenty-two men. Is it any wonder that the company is male orientated. What influence, if any, do the women in Lego management have on the development of the product range?
All our companies are duty bound to serve their customers with the products they want and require. But they are can also be trend and thought leaders for society. It is time the toy industry (and all others) to be part of the solution rather than the problem that perpetuates gender inequality in our societies.
Not all girls want pink and not all boys want monsters and building sites. The challenge is to develop a gender neutral product range. Not only will this be more widely acceptable it will bring massive media coverage and public interest. This will bring more children into your customer numbers and therefore increase sales and profitability; a good deed for society and yourselves.
Be radical Lego, give us more than a female chemist or palaeontologist. I’m sure there are many diversity practitioners around the world who could advise how this could be done!