Challenging the Representation of Women in Science: One Brick at a Time
Encouraging women to take up science and science-related careers might not just be morally good, or good for women, but also important for the progress of science itself. Science requires the training of clever and creative minds. That training requires education—not just formal education but also informal training. LEGO sets are an important part of that training for the children who encounter them—and if girls who visit LEGO stores or play with LEGO sets are given the message that science is for boys, this will be one brick in a wall which prevents many capable girls from taking up science seriously. The narratives and information about science provided by the Research Institute set hopefully have the potential—especially if joined by other messages—to counteract this impression and teach girls that they have a role to play in scientific investigation. This is important because the questions and knowledge produced by science affect everyone.
However, the Research Institute, perhaps unintentionally, does still seem to replicate the gendered distinctions between men and women in science by engaging girls through largely passive, feminine role play even as it consciously uses LEGO to raise the profile of women in science. As we try to remove bricks from the extensive wall that blocks off access to scientific careers for many women, we need to remember that LEGO and other toys may be part of this wall. In the future, we hope that girls will spend more time with the Spaceport— and perhaps boys can extend their range to the Heartlake Hair Salon, too. For everyone, LEGO’s role play potential shouldn’t be allowed to overshadow its capacity to teach science and engineering.