Lego is gearing up to ditch the gender bias from all of its toys, starting with a new campaign

The Ready for Girls campaign urges the world to welcome girls into roles that the toy industry doesn’t typically associate with them.

12 October 2021

It’s a commonly asked question: Would you give your son a doll? Most answers would be: hesitant – and the numbers prove it. A new study suggests that, because society still values “male” qualities, boys are still discouraged from playing with toys they associate with girls. And girls are discouraged from playing with toys that require building, tools and problem solving. So how do we get little girls ready for such a world? Lego says we don’t; we get the world ready for girls, starting with toy marketing.

For the UN International Day of the Girl campaign, Lego commissioned a report from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which surveyed nearly 7,000 parents and children aged six to 14 years old in China, Czech Republic, Japan, Poland, Russia, UK and USA. It highlighted the need for society to rebuild its perceptions, actions and words to support the creative empowerment of all children. 76 per cent of parents who completed an implicit-bias assessment said they would encourage Lego play to their son, as opposed to just 24 per cent who would recommend it to a daughter.

“Behaviours associated with men are valued more highly in society,” said Madeline Di Nonno, the chief executive of the institute. “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 Lego campaign features stories about three girls and one woman from Japan, the USA and the UAE, who all use Lego to fuel their creativity. Lego claims: “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.” So it wanted to create a campaign that shows that girls and boys alike should be able reach their true creative potential during developmental stages and beyond, in their lives and careers.

Lego: Let’s get the world ready for girls (Copyright © Lego, 2021)

The Ready for Girls campaign aims to ensure girls everywhere aren’t losing out on the benefits of Lego play due to societal expectations. The stories in the campaign are of: Fatima and Shaikha, 18 and 8, from the UAE, where Fatima is the UAE’s youngest inventor. Her sister Shaikha loves space and wants to be the first woman on the Moon. Then we see Chelsea, 11, from the USA, who is the founder of Chelsea’s Charity, where she gives away free art supplies to children in need so they can creatively express their emotions and overcome challenging times. And Mahiru, 11, from Japan, who is a key member of Seeds+, a school marching band that exists to bring joy through music and creativity.

The harmful effects of gender biases in toys is harmful to girls and boys alike. Seventy-one per cent of boys surveyed expressed a fear of being made fun of if they played with “girls’ toys” – typically, we associate dolls and domestic toys relating to the home and kitchen as being for girls. It’s 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,” says Di Nonno.

But why does a toy matter so much? Because toys are the tools we use as our brains develop to build and strengthen certain skills. “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,” explains Di Nonno.

As a result of the survey, and the rising demand and desire for gender accessibility across all sectors of society, Lego ​​has now announced its commitment to get rid of gender biases in its marketing, encouraging play with the iconic childhood product as being fit for girls as well as boys. It has developed a 10-step guide to inspire creative play and invites parents to share photos of their child’s Lego creations. The guide includes advice like: “Praise Creativity, Don’t Judge: When your child shows interest in an activity outside the norm, praise their creativity and ingenuity, and avoid redirecting them to more traditionally ‘acceptable’ activities, which they might find mundane or uninspiring.”

GalleryReady for Girls: Courtesy of Lego, 2021.

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Ready for Girls. Courtesy of Lego, 2021.

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About the Author

Dalia Al-Dujaili

Dalia is a freelance writer, producer and editor based in London. She’s currently the digital editor of Azeema, and the editor-in-chief of The Road to Nowhere Magazine. Previously, she was news writer at It’s Nice That, after graduating in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh.

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