Days after California announced that certain retailers will be required to remove gender-specific signage from toy aisles, Lego announced that they will take the initiative to remove gendered labeling from its products. This is the latest in a series of moves from toy retailers to be less beholden to traditional gender roles. This includes a highly-publicized decision last year to rebrand the Mr. Potato Head product line without the "Mister," and a 2019 move by Mattel to make a more gender-neutral line of dolls. Lego based their decision on the findings of a survey they commissioned on learning, play, and attitudes about gender.
Per The Guardian, Lego discovered that while girls are beginning to overcome their reluctance to play with toys and pursue careers typically associated with boys, the same is not true in the opposite direction. Both boys and the parents of boys fear social consequences for playing with toys that are "for girls."
"Parents are more worried that their sons will be teased than their daughters for playing with toys associated with the other gender," said Madeline Di Nonno, chief executive of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, who conducted the research on Lego's behalf. "But it's also that behaviours associated with men are valued more highly in society. Until societies recognise that behaviours and activities typically associated with women are as valuable or important, parents and children will be tentative to embrace them."
This surely pleases the same kinds of activists who triggered the change in California law, but it's also a commercial decision. It's hard to sell toys to kids who are insecure about playing with them.
It seems from the outside that Lego isn't especially gendered, other than color-coding pink building sets as "for girls." In recent years, Lego has come to rely more on popular film, television, and gaming IP in recent years, much of which is fairly gender-neutral by its nature. After all, what kid doesn't buy Star Wars or Marvel toys?
Still, according to their own internal data, it seems like there's room to grow by breaking down barriers to entry for some customers.
"We're working hard to make Lego more inclusive," said Julia Goldin, chief product and marketing officer at the Lego Group. "Traditionally, Lego has been accessed by more boys, but products like [arts and crafts line] Lego Dots or Lego City Wildlife Rescue Camp have been specifically designed to appeal to boys and girls."