Lego announces plans to remove gender stereotypes from toys, following global survey
Lego announced Monday the company will work to remove gender stereotypes from its toys following a global study that looked into how creative play is gendered.
The research, commissioned by the Lego Group and carried out by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, found attitudes toward children's activities and future goals continue to be unequal and confined to gender biases.
In a survey of almost 7,000 parents and children, aged 6-14, worldwide, the majority of children reported feeling confident in engaging in a wide range of activities — including those that have been historically gendered.
But girls expressed this stronger than boys. For example, 82% of girls agreed that girls can play football and boys can practice ballet, compared to 71% of boys. And 42% of girls said they worry about being made fun of for playing with a toy typically associated for the other gender, compared to 71% of boys — a fear often shared by parents.
"Girls are more likely to consider a wider range of jobs versus boys," Madeline Di Nonno, president and CEO of the Geena Davis Institute, told USA TODAY. "The girls are ready, we just have to get out of the way."
The study was published Monday in recognition of the United Nations' International Day of the Girl and marked the launch of a new Lego campaign called "Ready for Girls," which, as written in a news release, "celebrates girls who rebuild the world through creative problem-solving."
The release added that the company plans to work with the Geena Davis Institute and UNICEF to ensure that Lego products and marketing are free of harmful stereotypes.
"We have always been focused on ensuring that LEGO play was for all children, but within the recent years we have focused more on putting systematic processes into place to ensure LEGO products and marketing be as inclusive as possible," said Julia Goldin, Chief Product and Marketing Officer Lego Group, in a statement to USA TODAY.
"We don’t use gender segmentation and we test all products with boys and girls, just as you can only [shop for Lego] products by passion point and not gender."
Although children are becoming more confident in breaking down gender norms, Di Nonno stressed the impact of generational stereotypes on both creative play and consequential, career goals in the future. She pointed to other parts of the study's findings — including that parents are 6 times more likely to think of scientists and athletes as men rather than women, and over 3 times as likely to encourage girls to engage in cooking/baking than boys.
"What's the parental imprint?" said Di Nonno. "It's about what's happening in the home, and how can parents help their children see and experience a less gendered world."
Progress toward a less gendered world in children's lives may be seen soon in shopping aisles or on screen. On Saturday, California became the first state to require large retail stores to provide gender-neutral toy sections, and in a 2020 study, the Geena Davis Institute found female characters on TV accounted for the majority of screen and speaking time, at a higher percentage than any previous year they had previously studied.
Still, there is a lot of work to do — especially, as Di Nonno points out, in terms of intersectionality with race, ability, sexuality and gender identity.
"When you walk into a retail store with your child...what are they going to see and what is the message being conveyed to them?" she said. "It's about making sure that there can be the removing of labels and looking at gender agnostic play experiences, too — because we have many children that are gender fluid."