Lego responds to Shorewood Hills students’ letters
Elementary students study iconic toy in marketing class, find disparity in representations of gender
MADISON, Wis. — For decades Legos have helped to educate children and spur their creativity. A group of fourth and fifth grade students at Shorewood Hills Elementary School have returned the favor by educating the international toy maker about what they say is a problem.
Several months ago the 125 students participating in the marketing study class began taking a closer look at Legos.
“And that led to one group of students gathering data and going through about 600 Lego sets and find out what the ratios were and who was represented,” said Michele Hatchell, a teacher at Shorewood Hills Elementary School.
The findings stood out.
“They found that about 75 percent of mini figures are male,” Hatchell said.
Female mini figures accounted for 12 percent while robots made up 8 percent and animals figures were 5 percent.
“I was surprised. I didn’t think it would be that bad,” says Olivia Vassallo, a student.
The students then decided to take their findings to Lego. The 125 students each wrote a letter to the toy company asking them to take a closer look their findings.
They sent off the letters and waited.
“I didn’t know if we’d ever hear back,” Hatchell said.
One week before the end of the school year a letter arrived from Lego. The company embraced the input they received from the students.
“It is true we currently have more male than female mini figures in our assortment. We completely agree that we need to be careful about the roles our female figures play — we need to make sure they’re part of the action and have exciting adventures, and aren’t just waiting to be rescued,” said Steve Clines of Lego in the letter. “They admitted that there is a gender imbalance and that’s something they need to change, which was beautiful for them to just have heard the kids voices and responded back,” Hatchell said.
The letter from Lego to the students went on to say their comments will be shared with Lego’s marketing and development teams.
The positive experience with Lego has taught the students they can make a difference.
“You know there’s always a way. You can always leave a footprint,” Vassallo said.
The class has created a website that contains more information about the project. You can visit that website at: www.WhatItIsIsBeautiful.com.