Barbie, LEGO Diversity Goals Have Big Impact on Girls of Color

Oct. 28, 2021 — Last year, on a trip to Disney Springs, the shopping complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL, Brianna Watson, a wife and motherhood blogger, and her then-3-year-old daughter, Ari, walked by the Lego Store, where Mickey Mouse, Maleficent, and other characters were featured in Lego form.

“I want some!” Ari exclaimed excitedly.

Ari, who Watson, 29, describes as “the definition of girly girl” with a fondness for pretty dresses and skirts, started pre-K in August.

After spotting a box of Legos in her classroom, it became clear to Watson that Ari’s interest in the construction toys never waned. She began asking to get to school around 7:30 a.m., giving her half an hour of Lego play before class starts.

“It’s typically her by herself or with another boy, or her teacher will go over there and play with her for a little bit,” Watson says.

While Legos are traditionally known as being products “for boys,” Ari’s love for building Lego towers and castles isn’t necessarily unique, according to new research commissioned by the Lego Group and carried out by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

Girls are often eager to take part in all types of creative play, including STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics)-related activities, like building the Empire State Building using marshmallows and toothpicks or making their own cloud with water, ice, hairspray, and a Mason jar.

But many lose interest as they grow older, and widespread societal beliefs about what constitutes girls’ vs. boys’ activities play a major role, findings show.

Today, women make up close to half of the U.S. workforce, but only represent 27% of STEM workers, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Black (2%) and Hispanic (2%) women make up less than 5% of workers in STEM-related occupations, according to the National Science Foundation.

In efforts to combat these gender disparities, Lego launched its “Ready for Girls” campaign on Oct. 11, the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl Child.

Lego vows to remove gender bias from its products and marketing, and it will test products with boys and girls, says Julia Goldin, chief marketing and product officer for the Lego Group.

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