LEGO Takes Miniature Step To Empower Tiny Yellow Women

9662665997_57dfede583The LEGO toy company, which has come under fire in the past for its gender stereotyping and unbalanced ratio of male to female mini-figures, has released its first woman scientist character. Professor C. Bodin, as her name tag reads, holds beakers and, according to her bio on the LEGO website, specializes in “finding new and interesting ways to combine things together.” Bodin is called simply “The Scientist” and doesn’t wear pink, doesn’t come equipped with tiny baked goods and provides a welcome career alternative to “princess” for little girls.

The Scientist makes her debut at a critical time for women’s education. Statistics show that women are drastically underrepresented in all major STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields, comprising just 25 percent of chemical engineers and less than 25 percent of environmental scientists. Many attribute the low percentage of women to lingering stereotypes that STEM careers are unfeminine. Studies show that this stigma starts in childhood, when girls are encouraged to play with only certain types of toys. After all, it took LEGO 81 years to produce a female scientist rather than another nurse or secretary.

Although LEGO still has a legacy of unequal representation and gender stereotyping to answer for, let’s hope this newest addition to the LEGO brand indicates progress to come and increased awareness about the (negative) messages that toys can send to children.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user pixbymaia under license from Creative Commons 2.0

 

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Melissa McGlensey recently graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.A. in English and Spanish with a minor in creative writing; she is currently interning at Ms.

 

Comments

  1. Marlene McGlensey says:

    As a mother who has raised 2 girls, it is so hard to find toys that encourage girls to rise to their full potential. Congrats to Lego for coming into a more current century and thank you Melissa for informing us!

    • the writer completely forgot about the female zookeeper minifigure, which apparently isn’t a viable and respectable job field for a woman?

  2. Excellent article on Legoland finaly getting a grip on positive female influnces for our children…

  3. I hope this is just the beginning of LEGO ‘s change in representation of women in toys. Down with the pink aisle in the toy store and up with multicultural, multidimensional female and male roles in popular toys.

  4. It’s about time! Glad to hear this. My daughter was inspired to become a doctor after receiving a Barbie doll named, Dr. Barbie. She is now in her senior year of college studying Molecular Cellular Developmental Biology and will study for the MCAT next year. I hope girls will become inspired by Legos new scientist.

  5. Our family has literally purchased thousands of dollars worth of Legos over the last decade (all 3 of my children are fans) and this change has been a long time coming. I will make a point of purchasing the good doctor just to show my support!
    Great article!

  6. Laura Kay Wright says:

    Interesting! Very well written article. I like the humor behind the “career alternative” to “princess.” lol

  7. Laura Dean-Richardson says:

    Great article for gender equality and recognition for Legos efforts!

  8. Interesting stuff!

  9. I really like Melissa’s article!! It typifies how women are subtle put down and not honored in “male” rolls. This is why my wife and I support the University of Washington’s Women’s Center STEM program for starting to mentor and educate minority women while they are in high school!

  10. Its great to see a toy company breaking away from the Barbie mold!

  11. Beverly Phillips says:

    Melissa,

    Great job on the article. How about addressing the Barby Doll problem of making little girls feel terribly inferior when their body doesn’t measure up to Barby?

  12. S.P. Callaway says:

    Excellent article. It’s about time toy manufacturers began taking women’s self esteem issues into consideration when designing toys for little girls.

  13. Sheri L. Snavely says:

    Way to go Lego! But did they have to give her bad hair and pockets? My eleven year-old daughter will love the new professor and her colorful beakers. Science is her favorite subject and she thinks scientists are “cool and arty.” The numbers for chemical engineers were not a surprise but I was happy to see a high percentage of biologists (46% female) on the hyperlink. There’s hope. Thanks Melissa from all the science-friendly Moms out there. Scientific thinking is truly is the best way for our daughters to understand the world. It’s all about questions, not answers.

  14. Liz Elsenpeter says:

    I have a 10-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old son. My son is obsessed with Legos and plays with them almost daily. My daughter likes Legos as well and actually plays with them from time to time. It is disheartening when I hear my daughter say that she wishes they made more Legos for girls. I typically jump in and say Legos are for boys and girls it’s primary colors and you can make anything you want out of it. Let’s just hope Legos sticks to making more career driven women and sets for girls of all ages. Great article!!!

  15. loran brigham says:

    What a positive step toward getting our girls into STEM jobs. My school had women students from MIT come speak to our girl students, and it was truly eye-opening to see girls be empowered in this way. Good work Lego and way to go Melissa!

  16. Suzanne Sutton says:

    Interesting article which begs the question, what took them so long??

  17. Minard Duncan says:

    I enjoyed the article. Congratulations!

  18. Gary Graves says:

    Melissa – Great job on the article. I hope others will see it and that it will inspire other companies to get involved with promoting more WOMEN and STEM. Fullerton College is doing its part and we have many great women-students that are now pursuing STEM Careers. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Hallie Slowik says:

    Bravo to LEGO! Thanks for your comments on this, Ms. McGlensey!

  20. Tracey Sledge says:

    Melissa-
    I love the article and the awareness to women in STEM career paths. As a woman that graduated with an engineering degree, I love encouraging other women to pursue STEM careers.

  21. Thank you, Melissa and LEGO!

  22. Baby steps…better than nothing! She looks a little androgynous but as I said “baby steps”. Having a daughter that is both lovely, feminine, “and” an organismal biologist makes me wonder if perhaps the “nerdy “female scientist stereotype could’ve been minimized, but props to Lego for even acknowledging the issue!

  23. Good for LEGO! I hope they keep it up!

  24. Melissa – How wonderful to see a young professional woman raising the awareness of positive role models for other young women! I’ve worked in Human Resources for many years and have focused on encouraging more women to pursue math and science education/careers.

    Between this article and the Big Bang’s focus on brainy women (Bernadette and Amy) the message is getting out!!! Hey, maybe ‘The Scientist’ should make a guest appearance on The Big Bang Theory? Excellent article.

  25. Big news in the toy industry! I do agree that “The Scientist” looks like she had a bad hair day. Great summary. I, like others, look forward to a Lego based “Big Bang Theory”.

  26. i still think Lego is now too much about the figurines and too little about the blocks! Back on the day you got tons of pieces and just let your imagination go. Now the sets come with fewer pieces that can only be used for specific designs. I recommend to any parent to get these for their child (male of female): http://shop.lego.com/en-US/LEGO-Creative-Bucket-10662

  27. Great! Look forward to regularly following your stories!

  28. Louise Shamblen says:

    As a member of the “older generation” I am thrilled to read this article and see that Lego is expanding their awareness of gender stereotyping. There are so many opportunities open to girls today than in my day but there is always room for improvement. Thanks for keeping us informed.

  29. Nice article Melissa. Good to see LEGO step “outside of the box”. It’s so refreshing to see young ladies like yourself speak up and make a difference. Keep up the good work. All of God’s Blessings to you!

  30. Teresa Green says:

    I, too, hope this is just the beginning of more female type characters to be included in Lego sets. I don’t object to princess sets either. I think both types play an important role in encouraging the pursuit of careers for all genders.

  31. Good article, thanks. A reminder though that the nursing profession is in the field of science.

  32. Another great article. I usually don’t read articles in Ms. or things like this, but your articles are interesting and to the point. Thank you.

  33. It’s interessting to see how all the people that usually aren’t interested much in LEGO are now so over excited about this minifigure.
    My problems with this article in particular:
    - Minifigures only exist for 35 years, so before there weren’t any scientists at all.
    - in the 70s and 80s minifigures were gender neutral, so assuming that all the space researchers from LEGO’s Classic Space theme are male is already a problem in itself! Because you couldn’t see their long hair under the helmet? Because they weren’t wearing lipstick? Because their print doesn’t suggest an hour glass body shape? Well that only proofs that society is having issues with gender roles, not LEGO and this still continues until today.
    - I wish people would finally realize that LEGO is a construction toy, which means parts are interchangeable, so giving scientists a female or gender neutral face was never a problem. Not for me, not for your kids, not for anyone.
    - Why were there non of these articles when there was a librarian in the last series of Collectable Minifigures – which is out for about five month and widely still available? Is that not considered educated enough?

  34. Dawn Hanson says:

    Good article. Well written.

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