LEGO for girls

I love this ad. I love it because this was me. 

I grew up with Lego bricks. I had Lego sets that let me build doll house-like rooms, complete with poseable figures, larger than the classic mini-fig. I was fascinated by the angled pieces, building small houses with complicated footprints just so I could use the unusual shapes on the roof. As I got older, I explored the gears, building drawbridges on castles and axles on cars. Finally, in high school, the museum I worked for bought a Mindstorms set, and I dabbled in programming.

Fast forward to my career as an instructional designer and facilitator. I was leading a Six Sigma/Lean manufacturing class. For a hands-on activity, I selected one that had the team working together to build small Lego figures to order, and then implement process improvements. Sounds like fun, right?

The activity crashed on take-off. The flaw in my plan? Only two students in my class had ever picked up a Lego brick before. Now I would not have considered this an obstacle before attempting the activity. I would have assumed Lego was pretty self-explanatory. But what I had not anticipated was how strong a hold gender bias had on my students.

You see, the class was exclusively women, and almost all of them were of the opinion that Lego was a “boy’s toy.” One of my students actually complained that “we’re all women. None of us played with Legoes as a child, and most of us don’t have sons, either.” This idea that girls don’t play with Lego was so strong that many of the students had trouble even understanding how the bricks fit together, attempting to fit smooth side side to smooth side to construct the figures.

It’s been three years, and I am still sad for that class. How much deeper did the gender bias go? Were there other things they had missed out on because they thought it wasn’t appropriate for girls or women?

My heartfelt wish? Give your daughter Lego bricks. I don’t even care if it’s sets from the much-villified Friends line. At least it’s Lego.

For more information on the ad above, see this Huffington Post article.

Posted in STEM and girls

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