It's been nearly two years since LEGO released its first female lab scientist minifigure, Professor C. Bodin, in the late summer of 2013. The Scientist wasn't the first LEGO minifig in a STEM profession, but her release brought new-found awareness of persistent gender stereotypes and biases in the children's toy market.
Since then, LEGO has taken significant steps to address consumer interest in the addition of more female characters in scientific fields. Beyond the overwhelmingly positive Research Institute, a fan-designed set featuring three female scientists that quickly sold out its limited run last year, it's been heartening to see that LEGO has quietly been adding more STEM women to its offerings — including a slew of figures in new sets released this month. Here's a look at some of the latest LEGO products featuring women in STEM professions:
To be sure, significant room for improvement remains in overall representation of girls and women across LEGO's offerings. For example, I and many others would very much like to see more female characters in leading roles outside of Friends and Elves — STEM careers or otherwise. Because the reality is, despite recent improvements, LEGO is still overwhelmingly marketed to boys: When it comes to the main LEGO lines, male remains the default. There are far more male characters than female in any given set, and it is almost impossible to purchase a set containing only one minifigure where that minifig is female. (Friends, Elves, and other themes such as the Disney Princess line do offer sets highlighting female figures, but these reside outside of the main minifigure world.)
It is also notable that, with the exception of the Doc McStuffins example above, there are no women of color among the new STEM professionals. One female superhero from Marvel Comics and two male characters from Jurassic World have appeared in recent months, but the issue remains that there are no minifigs of color in the everyday "yellow-people" world of LEGO. It's a problem that really should be addressed.
Finally, I encourage readers to take a look at what's happening on LEGO Ideas, where fans are pushing new visions of STEM professionals for LEGO to consider. [Full disclosure: I currently have a set gathering support on this platform, but it is not in the STEM realm.] With the exception of the first design below, which will be available in stores this summer, the following sets could all use your support! Sets on LEGO Ideas must receive 10,000 votes to be considered for production. It would be fantastic to show the company that these topics shouldn't be "one and done" — that many of us consumers very much welcome new and varied examples of women in the STEM fields, both for ourselves and for the little ones in our lives.