Female figurines a sign of equality

Lego has released a new collection of figurines that feature women in sciences such as chemistry, astronomy and paleontology. The fact that the new figurines are making the news might seem trivial, but Anne Wilson, associate professor of psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University, believes this is a big advancement for breaking gender stereotypes.

“In general, I find that there are a lot of small messages in society that can be bad,” Wilson explained. “If toy stores start to recognize they don’t need to be gender norming everything, I think it’ll encourage more of a tendency to market toys as toys that are okay for both boys and girls and it’s really about interest.”

Photo by Heather Davidson

Photo by Heather Davidson

Wilson, who is a consultant with the Centre for Women in Science and does a large amount of research on gender and beauty norms for women, found an interest in Lego’s decision to add the figurines of women in the sciences to their collection.

The new “research institute” collection was the latest winner of the Lego Ideas contest. The best part, Wilson said, is that the women in science initiative came from people voting for more female representation in toys.

“This is something people actually wanted and voted on, so the fact that people are actually saying ‘we want more diversity in what you’re presenting’ is a really good sign that people are sick of what’s out there,” she explained.

According to Wilson, who has two young boys and several nieces and nephews, gender stereotypes in toy stores are prominent. She explained that the aisles, specifically the “pink” aisle, are full of “ridiculously gender-marketed toys.”

“On one hand, people accept gender equality, [but] on the other hand the experiences that boys and girls are getting as kids are really different.”

20 years ago, Wilson explained, Lego was marketed universally to children. However, over the last 20 years, it has been marketed far more aggressively to boys, with themes such as Star Wars.

“Now, they act like Lego can’t be for girls unless it’s pink and lavender and about fluffy things like building flower pots and pet shops,” she said.

Wilson continued that gender-marketed toys end up having an influence in what interests children have in later years. Boys that are marketed toward building and science toys tend to want to pursue those careers, while women are marketed to have interests in other areas such as shopping, caregiving and cleaning. Wilson said this narrows the interests that girls are exposed to and would like to pursue later in life.

“Even at that basic level, there can be some developmental differences,” she explained.

Although this is a step in creating equal gender practices in toys, Wilson cautioned that the Lego figurines are not the solution.

She hopes that positive messages for both girls and boys in the development stages can be found in more marketed toys, and that more children, especially women, can be interested in more careers.

“I think that being exposed to positive career messages like that is pretty cool and it’s nice that it gets framed in this positive way.”

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