Aaron Schachter: This Summer, LEGO women are leaning in - well, as best they can lean without feet. LEGO is planning to launch a new line featuring LEGO female scientists. The series includes an astronomer with a telescope, a paleontologist with a dinosaur skeleton and a chemist in a lab. And none of these LEGO ladies wear pink. The collection was designed and submitted to the Danish toy company by Ellen Kooijman. She's an isotope geochemist in Stockholm. She's also a huge LEGO fan. Kooijman came up with the toy set as part of the LEGO Ideas campaign. Enthusiasts can submit and vote on ideas for sets they want to see sold in toy stores. When a project receives 10,000 votes, it's reviewed by a board of set designers and marketing representatives. After testing the concepts for stability, play-ability, safety and market fit, the board selects one idea to become the next LEGO product. Kooijman female science set will be marketed as the "Research Institute" collection. Emily Grossman is a molecular biologist who now teaches science. She's seen pictures of the LEGO prototypes.
Emily Grossman: I think it's just brilliant that there are now these depictions of women doing science jobs, finally, in these little LEGO figurines. If you think about as a child, you don't ask questions about what goes on around you, you just look at what's in front of you and you absorb that into your consciousness. So children will now be growing up absorbing the fact that it's just as common and just as cool and just as interesting for women to be doing these classically male represented, dominated science jobs.
Schachter: LEGO has been criticized in the past for its gender-based marketing. The company created a set of building blocks in 2011 geared for girls called LEGO Friends. It featured thin female figurines that lock into pastel-painted settings such as a beauty salon and a bakery. But these new figurines have been criticized too for making women look a little manly.
Grossman: People have been commenting, 'Oh, they've got buns on their heads and they look a little bit conservative. But of course they do. When you are working in a chemistry lab as anyone knows, as I did in my Ph.D, you do have to look neat and tidy. You have to have your hair pulled back so nothing is in the way. Then, of course, you take it off and you let your hair down and you look sexy and feminine in the evening.
Schachter: In her project proposal, creator Ellen Kooijman wrote: "The motto of these scientists is clear: explore the world and beyond!" When her female scientists set is released later this year, Kooijman will receive a cut of the product's sales. Now that is leaning in.