Lego vows to remove ‘gender bias and harmful stereotypes’ from its toys

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Danish toy giant Lego kicked this week off by making an announcement Monday that they would be removing “gender bias and harmful stereotypes” from the marketing of their toys, NBC news reported.

The Danish toymaker revealed that it has already stopped labeling its products as “for girls” or “for boys” so that children in the 130 countries in which its products are available will be free to play without the confines of gender norms. The company responded to research that finds young children are negatively impacted by gender stereotypes. 

plastic blocks assortment – Getty Images

Lego announced the push to coincide with what the UN declared as “International Day of The Girl.”

“The company will ensure any child, regardless of gender identity, feels they can build anything they like,” Lego said in a statement. 

Recent product lines have also “been specifically designed to appeal to boys and girls,” Julia Goldin, the company’s chief product and marketing officer, told The Guardian.

“We’re testing everything on boys and girls, and including more female role models,” Goldin added, “Our job now is to encourage boys and girls who want to play with sets that may have traditionally been seen as ‘not for them’. We’re working hard to make Lego more inclusive.”

Researchers found that, while girls were becoming more confident and keen to engage in a wide range of activities, 71% of boys surveyed admitted they were terrified they would be made fun of if they played with what they described as “girls’ toys.” Even more alarming is that parents and adult guardians have the same fears.

“Parents are more worried that their sons will be teased than their daughters for playing with toys associated with the other gender,” said Madeline Di Nonno, chief executive of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which conducted the research.

“But it’s also that behaviors associated with men are valued more highly in society,” Di Nonno said. “Until societies recognize that behaviors and activities typically associated with women are as valuable or important, parents and children will be tentative to embrace them.”

Not surprisingly, the study confirmed that parents are still encouraging sons to do sports or STEM activities while steering daughters to focus more on traditionally feminine activities, like dance, dressing up and baking.

“These insights emphasize just how ingrained gender biases are across the globe,” said Geena Davis, the Oscar-winning actor and activist who founded the institute in 2004.

“There’s asymmetry,” said Gina Rippon, neurobiologist and author of The Gendered Brain. “We encourage girls to play with ‘boys’ stuff’ but not the other way around.”

Since the start of 2021, the Geena Davis Institute has audited Lego and consulted with the company to “address gender bias and harmful stereotypes.” The announcement highlights the headway they’ve already made to create a more inclusive experience for children across the globe.

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