Hey Lego, Bring Back the Women Scientists!

sXJpsDUshaWhdXn-556x313-noPadBack in August, Lego introduced a play set unlike any they’d ever produced before: the Research Institute, a set featuring three women characters in a professional setting.

The female mini-figurines—an astronomer, a paleontologist and a chemist—were each at work in their respective labs. Before these women scientists, every other female Lego character produced had been at play (for example, in a beauty shop, at the beach or shopping with friends).

Parents were elated by the change and the set quickly sold out online and in stores.  But Lego said it wouldn’t produce the Research Institute again—it was a “limited edition” model and was gone for good.

Fans expressed their disappointment online:

“We’re all left wondering, why is Lego walking away from sales for an item in such high demand?” asked blogger Melissa Atkins Wardy. She had urged Lego to make the set and drew more than 42,000 supporters to a Change.org petition asking for the women scientists to be created.

“This is infuriating and insulting to the millions of women and girls who thought this was an amazing idea, voted and bought these sets,” Research Institute enthusiast Kelly Sheehan wrote on Facebook. “If anyone finds out who the best person is to complain to, count me in. I am angry.”

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Atkins Wardy, who runs the blog Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, was so frustrated with Lego’s decision she took to Change.org again in August, this time asking the company to make the Research Institute a permanent fixture on toy store shelves.

In a letter to Lego execs Robbert Nickolaj Stecher, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp and Bali Padda, she wrote:

As a giant in the toy industry your brand has enormous influence over what is marketed to children and what children play with, which is why strong female characters are important for both girls and boys to see represented in LEGO toys. … Awareness of the importance of encouraging girls into STEM fields is at an all-time high and millions of parents across the globe are advocating for more gender equal toy aisles. Female scientists are not a fad and they make important contributions in their field. It is important to me and my family that LEGO honor its customers when we say we want and will continue to make successful sets which feature female [mini-figurines] depicted as smart, daring, and adventurous.

At the moment, Lego has announced no plans to offer more Research Institute sets. But its website says there may be “limited quantities” available in some stores in October.

For girls like 7-year-old Charlotte Benjamin, who wrote to Lego earlier this year asking for more empowered women characters—”[Lego’s girl characters] sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and they [have] no jobs. But the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs”—we hope Lego reconsiders the “limited edition” release of Research Institute and offers it, along with other sets like it, indefinitely.

Sign the Change.org petition today and ask Lego to save the scientists!

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Photo of Lego’s Research Institute via shop.lego.com.



Stephanie Hallett is research editor at Ms. Follow her on Twitter @stephhallett.


  1. Catherine Erney says:

    I can’t believe I have to say this again. Girls can be scientists, Lego. Move into the 21st century, please!

  2. I find it very sad how girls are represented. I am a former teacher of Physics, Biology, and Chemistry. I also am the mother of an 8 yr old daughter who isn’t into the legos for girls. She was so excited to find out you were making a dinosaur with a girl Paleontologist. Then we find out they weren’t making them anymore. My daughter is crushed. She wants to be a Primatalogist and study gorillas. I find ot sad that girls aren’t reprerepresented. Please bring them back.

    • You can’t be upset that it was a short run that’s what Lego does. That’s what all toy companies do now. If you want something, get it on the day it’s released. I used to work for Lego and when I heard this was being released I told everyone. I was excited to see it released because I hate the Lego friends line. I bought a set myself in hope that this will push them to make more sets like it in the future.

      • That’s the tricky part of tapping a new market. They don’t know the established traditions. I’d say a little Lego disruption is in order.

        Now that they’ve got the molds and the attention of a new customer segment, it’s time for a pivot. I’d love to see them create women in Tech figures too!

      • That is what Lego does for SOME kits. Others are available for years at a time.

        10223 Kingdoms Joust was released in 2011. It is still available on the website.

    • I agree with you. My daughter is 4-1/2 and wants to be an astronaut and a geologist. I was really hoping to get this for her.

      If you want to make your own Primatologist set, I suggest looking at Bricklink, which is webstore where people sell odd bricks. You can find various Lego chimps, gorillas, and a supply of Lego bananas there.

  3. Elizabeth Woods says:

    LEGO* should have women Farmers, EMT’s, Firefighters, Paramedics, Doctors, Nurses, Police, and Engineers to name a few more occupations. Some should be gray haired as well!

    • LEGO does include female firefighters, paramedics, and police officers in their LEGO City sets (e.g., fire station (60004), ambulance (4431), helicopter rescue (4429), and police station (6047).) Granted, these sets are not marketed toward girls but my daughter loves to play with them. Notwithstanding I agree that LEGO needs to make more sets like Research Institute and represent girls and women in stronger roles. I was extremely disappointed when I found out I missed the boat on Research Institute. I did not realize it was a limited production run and I didn’t snap one up fast enough for my daughter. She was sad to find out they were not making more. I think LEGO made a huge mistake.

  4. That’s the whole issue with the sets made through Lego ideas – they are, by definition, special editions and only available for a limited time. That’s why I was kind of “Meh” about this set from the very beginning. It’s a “bread and games” kind of thing. They give us this one thing to try and stop the criticism they have been receiving over the Lego Friends sets and hope we’ll be happy and just go away.

  5. Playmobil has female dolls in a lot of professions and sports roles. You can get them at hobby stores but not at The big chain toy stores.

  6. Norma Brewer says:

    Lego has a responsibility as the maker of toys that give children the opportunity to develop their creativity, to ensure that the charactrs they provide are rqually divided between male and female. and that the range of roles should iclude, as normal, roles such as scientists, artists, builders,plumbers, engineers- the whole range that male characters are sen as being able to fulfil.
    It is no longer acceptable to say ‘the male embraces the female’, He is not she,
    If you only have male characters, your audience will only be boys, and girls will feel disempowered, and not see as suitable for themselves=s the full range of jobs that exist in the world.
    It is 2014, Girls need to be supported by toys to become the best they can be.
    At the very least, LEGO is denying itself the opportunity to ensure it has a much larger purchasing audience than at present.
    Wake up, LEGO, and listen to the voices of women and girls.

  7. I jumped on this as the release was at my daughter’s 11th birthday. She loves her set. That said, the idea that so many people were waiting for a specific occasion or for the cash to place an order and now they can’t get it is appalling. The set sends an important message to my daughter. The fact that LEGO won’t be making more of this or any related sets is another lesson.

    And yes: Playmobil is our prefered action figure maker.

  8. I am extremely supportive of sets like the scientist set . I am a scientist and a woman and I bought two sets. As a scientist, I know that one must do research and that it is important not to deny the empirical evidence even if it is contrary to what you believe. As such, it is important to note that there is much evidence that Lego does have other women working. Actually, Lego has lots of women doing other work. For example, Lego Cargo Truck Set 60020 has a woman working with two men to load a cargo truck. I have many Lego Police officers who happen to be women and there is even an older woman who has gray hair and is a police officer; and there was already a Lego Scientist who happened to be a woman before this set came out. There are farmers who are women too and even a superhero or two. I so agree with the call for more representation of women in the professions and in Lego; we are too few in both. I don’t want this to be seen as an attack on the call for such representation. Finally, I will not explain further that this is a limited set like all the other Lego Ideas sets as someone mentioned in another comment; but someone who writes about it, might want to look into it. Thanks for the space to let my voice be heard!

  9. Lego does this all the time. Mars rover was a one production run as well as the hiyabusa satellite.

  10. I encourage everyone to call the Lego store near you so they will have tell you personally that they will not get any more of this set. That’s what I did and that’s what they told me, regardless of the what website says.

    After all the criticism and all the waiting Lego gets to coast along on the feel good articles generated by this set, but somehow their commitment isn’t strong enough to manufacture more than a few hours supply of this kit. Meanwhile the Lego Friends Heartlake Shopping Mall will suffer no availability problems over the several years run it will get in their production lineup.

    Also, Lego customer service has a completely useless standard “we don’t have any information about availability” answer for availability questions on any kit, This even extends to things they have already issued press releases about.

  11. PinoySaNorwich says:

    The set is now back in stock at the online LEGO Shop. I just ordered mine.

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