Skip to main content

Meet LEGO's first professional girls

By CNN Staff
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1457 GMT (2257 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LEGO's new set of figures called Research Institute sold out worldwide within a few days
  • It features female scientist, an astronomer and a palaeontologist complete with a dinosaur
  • Previous sets targeted at girls lacked professional female characters

London (CNN) -- When LEGO released a set of figures collectively called the Research Institute -- featuring a scientist, astronomer and a palaeontologist -- it sold out worldwide within a few days.

Why the fuss about a few tiny plastic people? Because they are all female professionals.

Previously, LEGO fans could only create professional females by building them out of existing parts. The only female figures supplied by LEGO fed into traditional stereotypes: Women hanging around the house, going to the beach or playing with pets.

Lego released a new set of figures called the Research Institute. It features a female scientist, an astronomer and a palaeontologist. Lego released a new set of figures called the Research Institute. It features a female scientist, an astronomer and a palaeontologist.
Lego ladies take on science
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
Lego ladies take on science Lego ladies take on science
Paid to play with Legos
Is Lego nipping at Disney's heels?

But then in January seven year old Charlotte Benjamin penned a letter that went viral, criticizing the company for the lack of professional female LEGO figures.

"All the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and they had no jobs but the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs, even swam with sharks," she wrote.

This month, Charlotte got her researchers -- although LEGO said it was already developing the new female figures at the time of the letter.

Scientist Ellen Koojiman first submitted the idea for all-female LEGO set to the company's website on 2012. She managed to get 10,000 supporters for her proposal, which was eventually turned into the new product by LEGO.

"As a female scientist I had noticed two things about the available LEGO sets: a skewed male/female minifigure ratio and a rather stereotypical representation of the available female figures," she wrote in the pitch.

LEGO is now the world's top toy maker, after overtaking Mattel, the maker of Barbie. Its chief executive, Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, told CNN the company wants to expand in Asia and was eyeing markets such as China. "The idea of the LEGO brand resonates really well with the Chinese consumers," Knudstorp said.

"They are highly focused on creativity, learning, education, and at the same time recognize that learning trough play is a unique way of learning, which is in many ways much more powerful," he added.

LEGO has targeted the female market before, with its LEGO Friends set designed for young girls released in December 2011. The set, which revolved around close friends and featured a bakery, pet salon and juice bar, was criticized for pandering to gender stereotypes.

Read more: Can 'The LEGO Movie' really be THAT good?

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1236 GMT (2036 HKT)
Europe's deteriorating relationship with Russia has hit the region's growth, even before new food sanctions begin to bite.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1634 GMT (0034 HKT)
With cyberattacks on the rise and here to stay, it's a modern-day challenge for people and businesses to get smarter about preventing them.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1324 GMT (2124 HKT)
Airstrikes, rebels seizing control of oil fields, plus a severe refugee crisis are a recipe for market panic. So why are Iraq oil prices stable?
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1524 GMT (2324 HKT)
Evidence points to pro-Russian separatists as perpetrators of the attack and Vladimir Putin is facing uncomfortable questions, David Clark writes.
August 5, 2014 -- Updated 1440 GMT (2240 HKT)
The biggest Ebola outbreak in history is taking its toll in Western Africa, hitting some of West Africa's most vulnerable economies.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 0902 GMT (1702 HKT)
Macau has overtaken Switzerland in the wealth stakes, being named the world's fourth richest territory by the World Bank.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1447 GMT (2247 HKT)
Saudi Arabian Bateel brand is best known for its delectable dates but it now has more than a dozen cafes and a new bakery in the works.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1100 GMT (1900 HKT)
A British nanotech company has created what it says is the world's darkest material. It is so dark the human eye can't discern its shape and form.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1602 GMT (0002 HKT)
Jibo robot is designed to be an organizer, educator and assist family members. CNN's Maggie Lake met him and says she was impressed with his skills.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 2109 GMT (0509 HKT)
American burger joints have sprung up all over London, but how to know which ones are best? CNN's Jim Boulden investigates.
June 18, 2014 -- Updated 1222 GMT (2022 HKT)
Sandwiched in between Iraq and Syria, Jordan's destiny seems to be one of a constant struggle for survival. John Defterios explains.
June 18, 2014 -- Updated 1502 GMT (2302 HKT)
At the last football World Cup, it was all about 3D. This time around, it's nothing less than 4K.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1058 GMT (1858 HKT)
Bob Mazzer has photographed inside London's Tube network for 40 years. He's captured history.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1712 GMT (0112 HKT)
Exotic animals are becoming a profitable business opportunity for Nicaraguan entrepreneurs. CNN's Rafael Romo reports.
June 13, 2014 -- Updated 1529 GMT (2329 HKT)
Iraq produces 3.3 million barrels per day and has the world's fourth-largest oil reserves. But the current crisis is putting all this in danger.
June 18, 2014 -- Updated 1222 GMT (2022 HKT)
Sandwiched in between Iraq and Syria, Jordan's destiny seems to be one of a constant struggle for survival. John Defterios explains.
June 16, 2014 -- Updated 1314 GMT (2114 HKT)
The gas standoff between Russia and Ukraine could have a knock-on effect on Europe. Explore this map to find out why is the EU nervous.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1058 GMT (1858 HKT)
Bob Mazzer has photographed inside London's Tube network for 40 years. He's captured history.
June 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
The UK capital promotes its tech stars and shows it can compete with Silicon Valley. Here are five companies that pitch to make it big.
ADVERTISEMENT