Toy manufacturing giant LEGO, on Monday, 11 October, pledged to make playing inclusive for children by ensuring its products are free of gender bias and harmful stereotypes. LEGO's bid to make gender-neutral toys comes amidst heightened discourse on how gender stereotyping and prejudices begin early in children, reported The Guardian.
The decision by one of the world's most powerful toys brands came as a response to a global survey commissioned by the company and carried out by Geena Davis Institute in recognition of the United Nations (UN) International Day of the Girl.
It found that at least 71 percent of the boys against 42 percent of the girls said they worry about being teased if they play with a toy typically associated with the other gender. The study also marked the launch of 'Ready for Girls', a new LEGO campaign celebrating girls who are rebuilding the world through creative problem solving.
Key Findings of the LEGO Survey
The research studied nearly 7,000 parents and children aged 6-14 years in China, Czech Republic, Japan, Poland, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States. It emphasised on the necessity to support the creative empowerment of all children.
One of the key findings of the research was that while girls feel confident in engaging with all types of play and creative activities, they are held back by "society’s ingrained gender stereotypes as they grow older."
The research revealed that in comparison to 62 percent of girls, 74 percent boys believed that some activities are only meant for girls. Girls emerged as less restrained by and more supportive towards different types of creative play compared to what their parents and society typically encouraged.
According to the research, for most creative professions, parents thought of a man. "They are almost six times as likely to think of scientists and athletes as men than women and over eight times as likely to think of engineers as men than women. The children surveyed in this research share these same impressions except girls are much more likely than boys to consider a wider range of professions to be for both women and men", it further added.
The study indicated that girls are pushed towards more cognitive, artistic and performance-related activities while boys are encouraged to pursue physical and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)-like activities.
The Role of LEGO Play
The LEGO group stated that they will ensure all children, regardless of their gender identity, believe they can build anything they like.
Fifty-nine percent of the parents said they encouraged their sons to build with LEGO bricks compared to 48 percent who said they encouraged their daughters. This imbalance in the perception of LEGO play motivated the brand to make its products gender-neutral.
“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. At the LEGO Group we know we have a role to play in putting this right, and this campaign is one of several initiatives we are putting in place to raise awareness of the issue and ensure we make LEGO play as inclusive as possible. All children should be able to reach their true creative potential,” said Julia Goldin, Chief Product and Marketing Officer, LEGO Group.
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How Will LEGO Work Towards Reducing Gender Bias?
The LEGO directive now aims at promoting spatial awareness, creative reasoning and problem-solving skills in children, reported The Guardian.
Julia Golden said that LEGO will no longer label any of its products "for girls" or "for boys". The official LEGO website will not offer gender filter in searching for toys.
"We are testing everything on boys and girls, and including more female role models," said Goldin.
The company also made short films "celebrating inspiring and entrepreneurial girls from the United Arab Emirates, United States and Japan, each of which are already rebuilding the world through creativity."
In its statement, LEGO added, "We know there is work to do which is why from 2021, we will work closely with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and UNICEF to ensure LEGO products and marketing are accessible to all and free of gender bias and harmful stereotypes."
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