Lego’s range of pink toys for girls helps enforce a gender divide that sees boys performing better in science, a BBC television presenter and scientist has claimed.
10 Mar 2013
Professor Alice Roberts, who has fronted programmes including Coast, Secrets from the Ice and Digging for Britain, lambasted sexist attitudes for deterring women from pursuing the subject and suggested the Danish toy was part of the problem.
Since girls are better represented in science elsewhere in the world, the reason why they lag behind in Britain must be “cultural”, she argued.
“The gender divide seems to be getting worse to me,” she told teachers and school leaders at an Education Innovation summit in Manchester.
“Lego has always been a good toy which teaches children about engineering. But Lego is now producing a range which it is says is for girls, which is completely pink and is about creating cakes.
“I think the problem is happening at a very young age, when the idea is instilled that there is a big difference between girls and boys, rather than at age 15.”
She attacked suggestions by education experts that schools could adopt “shopping-based” problems to encourage girls in maths and said the idea of using shopping and the colour pink to interest girls in science was “outrageous”.
“It goes back to a 1950s idea of what women should be like,” she said.
The Lego Friends range, to which Prof Roberts was believed to be referring, was criticized last year for fuelling gender stereotypes.
The line includes a set for girls with figures in pink, purple and green settings, a dream house, a splash pool and a beauty shop.
Lego said it was developed following requests from parents and girls for more realistic and detailed sets with brighter colours and role-playing opportunities.
A spokesman said: “We’ve always had Lego bricks that are pink and we’ve got a wide variety of different sets.
“We don’t say ‘this is for girls’. It’s up to the child or the parent to make the choice.”
Prof Roberts, an anatomist, physical anthropologist and science writer, said women also struggled to progress in scientific careers because of childcare.
“If you have a career break, it has an amazingly bad effect on people’s career,” she said.