“We’re working hard to make Lego more inclusive”
Lego has announced it will work to remove gender stereotypes from its toys after a global survey the company commissioned found attitudes to play and future careers remain unequal and restrictive.
Researchers found that while girls were becoming more confident and keen to engage in a wide range of activities, the same was not true of boys.
Seventy-one per cent of boys surveyed feared they would be made fun of if they played with what they described as “girls’ toys” – a fear shared by their parents. “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,” said Di Nonno. “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 found that parents still encouraged sons to do sports or Stem activities, while daughters were offered dance and dressing up (girls were five times more likely to be encouraged in these activities than boys) or baking (three times more likely to be encouraged).
“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 institute in 2004 to combat negative gender stereotyping and foster inclusion.
“There’s asymmetry,” said Prof Gina Rippon, a neurobiologist and author of The Gendered Brain. “We encourage girls to play with ‘boys’ stuff’ but not the other way around.”
This was a problem since toys offered “training opportunities”, she said. “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.”