Lego vows to dismantle harmful gender norms brick by plastic brick

Danish toy giant Lego on Monday pledged to remove gender bias from his toys after research found girls were held back by gender stereotypes.

The company, whose colorful building blocks and figures are sold in more than 130 countries, wants to make its products more inclusive so that the children’s ambitions are not restricted by gender.

“The company will ensure that every child, regardless of their gender identity, has the feeling that they can build anything they want,” Lego said in a statement.

Lego promised to make its products “free of gender bias and harmful stereotypes,” saying that it was necessary for a broader society to “rebuild perceptions”.

Lego did not go into detail on what exactly would be changed in its products to bring about these changes. However, in an email to NBC News, the company said it had moved its product and marketing divisions from gender-focused product groups to groups focused on “passions and interests.” The company also announced that it recently released a diversity and inclusivity playbook for its product design and marketing teams.

“The benefits of creative play such as self-confidence, creativity and communication skills are felt by all children and yet we experience age-old stereotypes that describe activities as only suitable for a certain gender,” said Julia Goldin, Chief Product and Marketing Officer, in a company release .

Lego’s promise came when the company released new research showing that girls were more open to play than boys, but societal norms about play, including their parents’ attitudes, limited their potential.

Nearly 7,000 parents and children in seven countries were involved in the investigation, Lego said.

Some praised Lego’s decision, saying other companies would be forced to follow suit.

“If manufacturers and stores alike stop relying on gender stereotypes in their appeals to children, we could see more marked changes in the children’s market,” said Rebecca Hains, professor of media and communications at Salem State University and an expert on children’s media culture in a facebook post, commented on the announcement.

“You are such a force in the industry that where Lego may go, others will follow,” she said.

Based in the UK Let Toys Be Toys campaign, who challenges gender stereotypes in toy marketing, also welcomed the news on Twitter, saying the negative impact of gender stereotypes on children is something they’ve been addressing with Lego differently for boys and girls since 2012.

“The idea that girls and boys should play or play with different toys is harmful – it reinforces harmful stereotypes,” said Pragya Agarwal, behavioral researcher and visiting professor of inequality and social justice at Loughborough University, England.

A child plays on a visit to Legoland at the American Dream Entertainment Mall in Rutherford, NJAnthony Behar / SIPA USA via AP file

On Saturday, California became the first state to declare that large department stores must present products such as toys in a gender-neutral manner.

Lego’s announcement came United Nations International Girls Day, which draws global attention to the challenges of girls around the world and promotes the empowerment of girls.

The United Nations says that while some progress has been made in recent years, women and girls still bear the burden of gender inequality, with discriminatory laws and social norms continuing to be ubiquitous and women remaining underrepresented at all levels of political leadership. It is 2020 report found that less than 50 percent of women of working age are on the labor market and that unpaid domestic and care work is disproportionately affected by women, which limits their economic potential.

A 2020 report by The Fawcett Society, a UK equality group, found that harmful gender stereotypes can significantly limit the potential of children and the toys they play with can contribute. It found that 66 percent of parents would like companies to volunteer toys to boys and girls alike.

Bianca Britton, Matteo Moschella , Mohammed Syed and Associated press contributed.

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