Recently, we wrote about a petition from mom Melissa Wardy for Lego to release a set of female scientist figures. After seeing that only 16 percent (11 percent if you don’t count the Lego Friends line) of Lego minifigures are females, Wardy knew something had to be done. She learned that one of the entries in one of Lego’s public contests to design new building sets featured a female minifigure series that included a paleontologist, a robotics engineer, a geologist, an astronomer, a chemist, a judge, and a fire fighter. This entry raised the amount of votes necessary to be considered for production, so Wardy started a petition to have these females in the STEM fields available on shelves, available for all kids to play with.
With positive role models—for girls and boys—being incredibly important, especially in a time where bullying is a very present topic in the media, I think that the toy industry is beginning to shape a new generation of women by not overlooking the importance of construction sets for girls that inspire them to be more than just “pink.” Here are a few examples (including Lego Friends) of construction sets that present introduce girls to bigger opportunities.
One of the main issues many folks have with girls’ construction sets, such as the Lego Friends line, is that they are very “pink-washed.” Just because the set is designed for girls, does everything have to have a splash of pink across it? The Lego Friends line’s newest product breaks down those gender barriers and creates a play set in its girls’ line that isn’t so pink—and even includes a boy minifigure.
Stephanie and Matthew attend Heartlake High, where they study plants under microscopes, experiment with chemical reactions, and look through an astronomy telescope in science and biology classes. Heartlake High provides a well-rounded cirriculum, with an art class and a music class as well. After school Stephanie and Matthew can play basketball with the hoop outside or go for a bike ride. The Heartlake High set includes Stephanie, Matthew, and Ms. Stevens mini-doll figures.
It is often said that girls get more enjoyment out of their construction toys if what they build can then be used for role-playing—and that’s exactly what the Lego Friends line does. These sets help girls to create a world where they can be the storytellers.
Lego is not the only company showing girls opportunities in the STEM fields that are available to them. GoldieBlox Inc. founder Debra Sterling launched a Kickstarter campaign for GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine, an engineering-based toy and book for girls, last September. This interactive book and construction toy series stars Goldie, the girl engineer who builds simple machines to solve problems and help her friends. GoldieBlox gives girls an opportunity to build spatial skills by building with 3-D construction sets. As kids read along, they can build what Goldie builds using the pieces from the construction set.
Sterling has an engineering degree from Stanford University, and was inspired by a fellow female engineer talking about how the construction toys her brother played with as a kid influenced her. Thus, Goldie was born—and girls everywhere could now experience this same sort of inspiration with a construction toy designed for them. Instead of simply creating a “pink” version of a boy’s toy, Sterling based GoldieBlox on Goldie in order to allow girls to focus on the character as a role model, rather than simply the color of their building blocks.
There is plenty of progress across all toy categories to be made in creating more gender-neutral products. There are opportunities out there, especially for girls, to find toys that inspire them to be brave, be bold, and to follow their dreams—whether they’re pink, blue, purple, green, or any other color.
For more commentary from Ali, check back often. Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Toy Book as a whole. We hope that you will share your comments and feedback below. Until next time!