LEGO will no longer sort its products by gender in light of new research finding that gender stereotypes affect children’s creative potential.
In a survey of nearly 7,000 parents and children, a report released Monday by the LEGO group and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media found that girls felt “less restrained by… typical gender biases than boys when it comes to creative play.” For example, 74% of boys between the ages of 6 and 14 expressed a belief that some activities are “meant for girls” and others are “meant for boys.” Only 62% of girls believed the same.
The vast majority of girls — 82% — also believed that it was okay for girls to play football and for boys to practice ballet. Although the percentage of boys was slightly lower, nearly three-quarters (71%) also agreed.
The researchers also surveyed parents in China, the Czech Republic, Japan, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States to understand their gender biases and how they might affect their children. They found that most parents, regardless of the gender of their child, were overwhelmingly more likely to associate scientists (85% vs. 15%) and engineers (89% vs. 11%) with men rather than women.
Correspondingly, the survey found that parents were more likely to encourage girls into activities that were more “cognitive, artistic, and related to performance,” whereas boys were pushed into “physical and STEM-like activities.” The former includes activities such as dancing, cooking, and baking, while boys were overwhelmingly encouraged into pursuing programming and sports.
The LEGO survey even found that gender stereotypes impacted whether children interacted with their products: 59% of parents said they encouraged their sons to play with LEGOs. When the company asked the same question using an implicit bias test, the difference became much more pronounced, with 76% of parents saying that they’d recommend LEGOs to their sons.
In light of this information, LEGO said in a statement it would be working with the Geena Davis Institute and UNICEF to “ensure LEGO products and marketing are accessible to all and free of gender bias and harmful stereotypes.”
“The benefits of creative play such as building confidence, creativity and communication skills are felt by all children and yet we still experience age-old stereotypes that label activities as only being suitable for one specific gender,” said Julia Golden, chief product and marketing officer at the LEGO Group.
“All children should be able to reach their true creative potential,” she added.
The company’s efforts to combat gender stereotypes when it comes to their toys will likely be buoyed by a recently passed law in California, which mandates that large retailers must provide gender-neutral toy and child care sections.
California’s law was inspired by Target phasing out some gendered signage in 2015, including eliminating the use of pink to refer to girls and blue for boys in its toy section.