Last week, LEGO unveiled its newest minfigure set (you know, those sets that come in boxes to be assembled, populated by little yellow figures that are, usually, male).
The set was chosen by popular vote from the LEGO Ideas competition, beating out a number of recognizable proposals based on pop culture themes—including Back to the Future, Legend of Zelda, and Sherlock Holmes.
LEGO Ideas is a platform LEGO creators can use to submit completed builds as proposals to LEGO. Once projects gain 10,000 votes from supporters online, the LEGO review board examines them and considers turning them into official sets. Creator Alatariel’s plans featuring miniature labs with an astronomer, a paleontologist, and a chemist were online users' most popular choice.
Representations of women in hard sciences aimed at young girls are sorely lacking in popular culture, which is perhaps part of the reason why only 25 percent of STEM field jobs are held by women. Research Institute will be the first LEGO set dedicated to science as a pursuit for girls (though they did release an individual female scientist minifigure last year).
While numerous studies have shown the educational benefits of children playing with LEGOs—research has long shown that playing with LEGOs leads to greater achievements in math and science—the company has for decades failed to appeal to girls. (Just do a search for the “LEGO Gender Gap” to get a sense of how well known, and studied, this problem is.)
Perhaps no one has made the case against LEGO better than Charlotte Benjamin, the 7-year-old whose handwritten letter to the company went viral in February.
Charlotte informed LEGO that there are "barely any lego girls," and the female LEGO figures they have made just sit around at home, go to the beach, and shop, while the male figures have adventures, save people, and hold jobs. She admonished the company to "make more Lego girl people and let them go on adventures and have fun ok!?! Thank you.”
Apparently there are at least 10,000 people who agree.