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