Women in tech and Lego

A bit off my regular blog topics but nevertheless a subject close to my heart.

Growing up, I was a devotee of Lego. I would play for hours, build according to instructions and freeform, depending on the parts I had at my disposal. I would build houses, cities, farms and create stories around my “characters.” I had fun and I didn’t realize I was laying the foundation for a love of creating, building and, yes, engineering.

Years later, in Business School, our Operations professor tried to show how hard actually building something was. He divided us up into groups of six and gave us a mission to build two identical anythings out of Lego, as a team, in under 5 minutes. Quickly I ordered my team to look for parts as I built two small cars. All the other teams failed this exercise. My Lego experience saved the day!

Now, with my own daughter, I wanted to create this same love of logical building. My two elder sons loved Lego and I figured, with her birthday coming up, it was time to get her her own Lego to play with. All I needed was a set that would fit in with her quite typical imaginary play habits, mostly scenarios from daily life like a house, store, fairy castle… all the regular stuff.

Heading over to the Lego site, I discovered a cruel fact. Lego has really changed over the years and now offers way more what I call “highly-targeted” sets than before. This means that there really needs to be a strong fit between the child’s interests and the Lego set.

Second problem are the product lines. These are Lego’s current product lines where I’ve removed non-Lego items, items for younger kids, generic (brick and minifigure) items and expensive collector’s lines:

City

Star Wars™

Ninjago

Universe

Hero Factory

Alien Conquest

Cars™

Atlantis  

Technic

Kingdoms  

Pirates of the Caribbean™  

Master Builder Academy

Pharaoh’s Quest

Creator   

Hero Recon Team   

Harry Potter™   

World Racers

Racers  

Toy Story™  

Space Police  

Power Miners

Prince of Persia™  

Indiana Jones™  

Spongebob Squarepants

BIONICLE®

Ben Ten

BELVILLE

Result: there are 27 product lines.  All but one, Belville, have a male (or robot, or alien) mascot. All but one are targeted at boys.

I’ve taken a closer look at each of the 26 product lines and have come to the conclusion that even the lines that can appeal to girls (such as City, Kingdom and Harry Potter) are strongly targeted at boys. City, for example, has mostly police, fire rescue, trains, construction and so on. All three lines have a disproportionate amount of male minifigures in comparison to females, and many don’t even have even one female minifigure in the box.  I’ve also tried looking for female minifigures but of course those are not available as a set and you need to order the more expensive custom-built ones.

 Regarding Belville, it’s practically a joke. There are only four sets and all of them have a very limited amount of building to do. Sadly, the figures are not standard Lego minifigures so even they are not compatible with every other Lego line.

I’ve read other comments and questions to Lego regarding sets for girls and it seems that many other parents of girls are concerned that Lego isn’t offering enough sets that appeal to girls’ play patterns and that Lego either doesn’t care or thinks they’re doing fine. They’re not.

Maybe I’m overemphasizing Lego’s impact on children’s love of engineering. I don’t think so but I would love to hear what othersLego Camper think.

As to my daughter: I bought her a Creator house (wonderful role-playing set), the Camper and the Bank (where it seems the only female is the bank manager and other 3 men are a cop, robber and driver).

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2 thoughts on “Women in tech and Lego

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