Lego celebrates the leading ladies of NASA like Mae Jemison and Sally Ride
Here’s a way to build women up.
Lego announced on Wednesday that it would release a “Women of NASA” collection, an effort to sell toys that are more inclusive of females, in this instance, particularly those moving the needle in science.
The $25-set features four mini figurines of women pioneers from the space agency including the astronomer Nancy Grace Roman, known as the “Mother of Hubble,” who played a major role in creating the Hubble Space Telescope, alongside a model of the famed telescope. Then there’s scientist Margaret Hamilton, who was the lead software designer for the Apollo 11 moon landing; astronauts Sally Ride, who was the first American woman in space, and Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space. Each figure will include a backdrop related to their work at NASA.
The idea for the set was dreamt up last year by Maia Weinstock, a deputy editor at MIT News, who submitted the female-driven idea to Lego. If the toy makers pick an idea from the site, submitters get a 1% cut of sales and licensing revenue. Weinstock’s idea received more than 10,000 votes.
Toy companies are finally starting to diversify by creating more inclusive products like dolls with disabilities, Barbie’s with actual curves, female superhero figures and characters with a wider range of skin tones. It could be paying off. Toy sales in the U.S. top $26 billion, up 5% between 2015 and 2016, according to market research firm NPD.
Pop culture influencers are also helping to drive demand for better toys. Last year, Oscar-award winning actress Viola Davis spoke about only buying things that help educate her daughter and build her self-esteem.
“I don’t give her Barbie dolls, to be honest. The only sort of ‘dolls’ that she could [have] are superhero dolls,” she said.
Lego introduced its first-ever disabled figure featuring a boy in a wheelchair after a Change.org petition called #ToyLikeMe garnered more than 20,000 signatures last year. On the health front, Mattel’s American Girl received positive feedback when it launched its diabetes doll kit. And earlier this year, a small Pittsburgh nonprofit created “Hello Hijab” launched a line of $6 head scarves for children to put on their Barbie dolls, encouraging tolerance of cultures that wear them. Next year, girls will finally get a bigger role in Thomas the Tank Engine’s boy-dominated sphere when Mattel, which owns the Thomas brand, adds two female main characters to its TV series.
While dolls have historically been targeted at girls, the category is becoming more gender neutral recently. American Girl brand added its first boy character in the brand’s 31-year history. Hasbro’s newest Baby Alive dolls now says “Mommy” or “Daddy” for the first time, before “Mommy” was the only option. And some come with accessories to match, like coding toys, robots and circuit builder sets targeted at girls and boys.
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