After gathering 55,000 signatures of people disgusted by LEGO’s sexist Friends sets for girls, SPARK representatives finally met with LEGO execs last Friday.
SPARK brought three main requests to LEGO:
First, we want to see more girls and women characters across all LEGO lines. My report to LEGO showed that 86.6% of characters are men, which is a major gender gap, and one reason that girls may no longer feel welcomed by LEGO products. A failure to include better representation of girls and people of color in prominent and non-stereotyped roles makes it harder for kids to see themselves in the product, and less likely to want to play with it. By increasing the number of visible women throughout the product lines, LEGO can more easily welcome girls to the building experience beyond the Friends.
Second, we want to see girls featured in more LEGO ads, and we want to see boys featured in ads for the LEGO Friends. If LEGO’s intention with the creation of the Friends line is to bring girls into the LEGO experience fully, they need to show girls engaged with toys aside from the Friends – and if they want boys to be comfortable playing with the Friends line, they need to show that, too. LEGO’s marketing has been very gendered over the last couple of decades, and research has shown that 76% of kids who see boys and girls in commercials are likely to think that toy is for everyone, compared to 40% of kids shown an ad featuring only boys or only girls. Simply making an effort to balance gender representation in ads is an easy way to make kids feel welcome.
And finally, as LEGO expands the Friends line, we want to see the inclusion of sets designed around non-stereotyped activities for girls: spaceships, politics, firefighting, architecture, teaching and business. Making the Friends line a truly representative line of options for girls and boys will diminish the stereotype threat we see in it now, as well as help keep girls engaged in the cognitive development offered by LEGO products. While the initial offerings in the LEGO Friends line are stereotyped and problematic, they do have the potential to get girls back into the LEGO brand – but LEGO also needs to make sure they have offerings for girls whose interests aren’t as focused on beauty. We also want to see more focus on and celebration of Olivia’s inventor’s set and treehouse – while these are great products in the current Friends line, they receive no commercial attention.
Let’s keep an eye out at as new LEGO sets come out on how many females are featured in the sets and how many girls and moms are pictured on boxes and in TV ads. Hopefully LEGO will be making some changes.
Great job, SPARK. Thank you for being such a great advocate for girls. Read SPARK’s full report of the meeting with LEGO here.