The 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.