Women in science are taking one tiny, plastic step forward after Lego announced on Tuesday it will launch a series of female scientists and their lab tools.
The science-themed project was selected as the latest Lego Ideas winner, and is set to hit shelves in August 2014.
The series – notably devoid of pink – includes an astronomer with a telescope, a paleontologist with a dinosaur skeleton and a chemist in a lab.
The project idea was submitted by Dr Ellen Kooijman, a geochemist in Stockholm.
In her project proposal, Kooijman wrote: “The motto of these [s]cientists is clear: explore the world and beyond!”
The toy company has been criticised in the past for its gender-based marketing tactics, and in particular, over a line of building blocks geared for girls called Lego Friends, featuring slim female figurines that lock into pastel-painted settings such as a beauty salon and bakery.
The debate even prompted a seven-year-old girl to write a letter to Lego asking why there are “more Lego boy people and barely any Lego girls”.
In her letter, Charlotte Benjamin lamented how “all the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and had no jobs,” while the boy figures went “on adventures, worked, saved people and had jobs”.
On her blog, Kooijman, an avid Lego builder, said she recognized a gender gap among the figurines.
"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. "It seemed logical that I would suggest a small set of female minifigures in interesting professions to make our Lego city communities more diverse."
Lego Ideas is a site where enthusiasts can submit and vote on ideas for sets they want to see available in toy stores. When an project receives 10,000 votes, it then enters a review phase to be evaluated by a board made up of set designers and marketing representatives, according to its website.
After testing the concepts for stability, playability, safety, market fit and more, the board selects one idea to become the next Lego Ideas product. The creator is recognised for inspiring the product and receives a cut of the product’s sales.
“We’re very excited to release Ellen Kooijman’s Female Minifigure set, featuring three scientists, now entitled ‘Research Institute’ as our next Lego Ideas set,” Lego said in a statement on its site. “This awesome model is an inspiring set that offers a lot for kids as well as adults. The final design, pricing and availability are still being worked out, but it’s on track to be released August 2014, so keep an eye out!”
Lego had not returned a request for comment at the time of publication.
Kooijman’s scientists beat out six other potential projects, among them a Sherlock set and a Legend of Zelda set.