Lego announced on Monday its commitment to rid its toys of "gender bias and harmful stereotypes" in order to make them more accessible to girls, but — according to results of a survey commissioned by the world's largest toy maker — it seems parents are the ones with real work to do.
Many parents perceive the Lego brand as a good example of an inclusive product — products are not labeled "for girls" or "for boys," its website doesn't allow searches by gender, and recent sets have been specifically designed with gender equity in mind. But the study, carried out by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media in recognition of the UN's International Day of the Girl, found that Lego play is still considered by parents to be more relevant to boys than girls.
"Girls are ready for the world, but society isn't quite ready to support their growth through play."
In fact, 59 percent of parents — among the nearly 7,000 parents and children aged 6 to 14 years old surveyed in China, the Czech Republic, Japan, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States — said they encourage their sons to build with Lego bricks compared to 48 percent who do the same for their daughters. This view became even more pronounced when parents were asked to complete an implicit-bias assessment. At that point, 76 percent said they would encourage Lego play to a son over a daughter.
Those tendencies extended beyond Lego, of course. The study found parents still encouraged sons to participate in sports and STEM activities while daughters were five times more likely to be offered dress-up play and three times more likely to be offered baking.
"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," Julia Goldin, the CMO of Lego Group, said in a press release.
According to Lego, these research findings show that "girls are ready for the world but society isn't quite ready to support their growth through play."
For its part, Lego sees its role in "ensuring more inclusive play and raising the debate around gender norms" as critical not just for girls but for any child.
"The LEGO Group knows that boys are also battling prejudice when it comes to creative play and playing with toys that are traditionally seen as being for the opposite sex," the release said, noting survey results that 71 percent of boys versus 42 percent of girls say they worry about being made fun of if they play with a toy typically associated with the other gender.
As a result of these findings, Lego has launched a new Ready For Girls campaign to welcome more girls to brick-building and ensure they aren't missing out on the benefits of Legos due to societal expectations: "The company will ensure any child, regardless of gender identify, feels they can build anything they like, playing in a way that will help them develop and realize their unique talent."