Gender stereotypes are alive and well according to Lego survey
Lego recently announced that it would begin work to remove gender stereotypes from its brand.
In other words, the Danish company is heading back to its roots and will no longer market playsets specifically to boys or girls and will work to make sure all of the toys it produces are gender-neutral.
Lego released a statement on October 11, 2021, regarding its decision:
"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," said Julia Goldin, Lego's chief marketing officer. Goldin then added, "At the LEGO Group we know we have a role to play in putting this right."
The Danish Lego company is one of the most powerful toy companies in the world. According to NPR, after conducting research surveys with nearly 7000 children and their parents throughout seven different countries: the United States, China, Japan, Poland, Russia, the Czech Republic, and the United Kingdom, the company made the decision to remove gender stereotypes.
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The survey's findings conducted by Lego in collaboration with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (which is a research organization that advocates for equal representation of women) aimed to discover if parents and kids see creativity as gendered.
Photo: Unsplash by Amelie Mourichon
To do so, Lego first had parents complete half of the survey, and then their children, between the ages of 6 and 14, completed the rest. The aim, according to Lego, was to test "for implicit bias in how parents define creativity differently for their sons and their daughters."
The results of Lego's study are pretty shocking, considering we are in the year 2021. According to the news media site TheConversation.com, the study found that 78% of boys and 73% of girls in the seven countries surveyed agreed with the statement: “it’s okay to teach boys to be boys and girls to be girls.”
It seems that parents are most likely at fault for passing on such traditional ways of thinking. According to NPR, the Lego study also found that parents are nearly "five times as likely to encourage girls (over boys) to engage in activities like dance and dressing up and are more than three times as likely to do the same for cooking and baking."
The Lego study also found that parents are four times more likely to "encourage boys to engage in sports and more than twice as likely to do the same with coding toys."
Photo: Unsplash by Nicole Green
In addition, the data collected by the study reveals that girls want to try more variety of creative play options than society and their parents typically encourage.
The study found that 82% of girls think it is okay for boys to do ballet and for girls to play football (the survey referred to American football in the USA and soccer elsewhere). Boys, however, are slightly more resistant, with only 71% of boys agreeing with the statement above.
Girls often aren't presented with sufficient opportunities in play to tinker and fix things, which affects their chances of taking an interest in STEAM (science, technology, engineering and maths).
However, boys also suffer due to gender stereotyping. The Lego study found that 71% of male children feared being judged or made fun of for playing with toys gendered for girls.
This was also a significant concern for many parents, with 54% of parents worrying their sons would be bullied for playing with toys associated with girls.
Unsurprisingly, only 26% of the parents surveyed worried about their daughters playing with toys associated with boys.
The results of the Lego study indicate that boys are under more pressure to conform to gender roles and norms in regards to creative activities compared to girls.
However, the beliefs and perceptions of friends and family may be holding girls back. Undoubtedly, all children pay the price when toys are gendered.
Researchers have been saying for years that gender stereotypes have a significant impact on the creative development of children and can even affect their future career paths.
Photo: 1942 Sears Christmas Catalogue
NPR reported that according to the Geena Davis Institute, "Parents are six times as likely to think of scientists as men rather than women and are more than eight times as likely to think of engineers as men rather than women."
In their statement released on October 11th Lego said: "New research commissioned by the LEGO Group reveals that girls today feel increasingly confident to engage in all types of play and creative activities, but remain held back by society's ingrained gender stereotypes as they grow older."
According to an article published on TheConversation.com, other studies have indicated that by not having many opportunities to play with building toys, girls are missing out on much more.
"Girls miss opportunities to develop spatial skills and mechanical reasoning skills necessary for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics: fields in which women continue to be under-represented."
Photo: Unsplash by Jackson Simmer
Lego is undoubtedly taking a step in the right direction, although it is interesting that it even needs to do so. If Lego had kept true to its origins, it would have never gendered its toys, to begin with. In the 1980s, the ads for Lego were very gender-neutral.
However, eventually, the Danish company gave in to the mainstream toy trend that began in the 1970s. According to TheConversation.com, toys became "increasingly and rigidly demarcated along binary gender lines."
The fight against gender stereotypes runs much deeper than just toys. Children also receive input regarding gender roles from the books they read, the TV shows they watch, and of course, from those they see around them every day, their parents and educators.
Reducing the gendered nature of toys and how toys are marketed is just one step that must be taken to prevent potentially harmful gender stereotypes during childhood.
Prevention is key because studies have shown that once stereotypes and attitudes regarding gender are entrenched in a child's mind, it is difficult to change.