Skip to main content

Meet LEGO's first professional girls

By CNN Staff
updated 10:57 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
  • LEGO's new set of figures called Research Institute sold out worldwide within a few days
  • It features female scientist, an astronomer and a palaeontologist complete with a dinosaur
  • Previous sets targeted at girls lacked professional female characters

London (CNN) -- When LEGO released a set of figures collectively called the Research Institute -- featuring a scientist, astronomer and a palaeontologist -- it sold out worldwide within a few days.

Why the fuss about a few tiny plastic people? Because they are all female professionals.

Previously, LEGO fans could only create professional females by building them out of existing parts. The only female figures supplied by LEGO fed into traditional stereotypes: Women hanging around the house, going to the beach or playing with pets.

Lego released a new set of figures called the Research Institute. It features a female scientist, an astronomer and a palaeontologist. Lego released a new set of figures called the Research Institute. It features a female scientist, an astronomer and a palaeontologist.
Lego ladies take on science
Lego ladies take on science Lego ladies take on science
Paid to play with Legos
Is Lego nipping at Disney's heels?

But then in January seven year old Charlotte Benjamin penned a letter that went viral, criticizing the company for the lack of professional female LEGO figures.

"All the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and they had no jobs but the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs, even swam with sharks," she wrote.

This month, Charlotte got her researchers -- although LEGO said it was already developing the new female figures at the time of the letter.

Scientist Ellen Koojiman first submitted the idea for all-female LEGO set to the company's website on 2012. She managed to get 10,000 supporters for her proposal, which was eventually turned into the new product by LEGO.

"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 in the pitch.

LEGO is now the world's top toy maker, after overtaking Mattel, the maker of Barbie. Its chief executive, Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, told CNN the company wants to expand in Asia and was eyeing markets such as China. "The idea of the LEGO brand resonates really well with the Chinese consumers," Knudstorp said.

"They are highly focused on creativity, learning, education, and at the same time recognize that learning trough play is a unique way of learning, which is in many ways much more powerful," he added.

LEGO has targeted the female market before, with its LEGO Friends set designed for young girls released in December 2011. The set, which revolved around close friends and featured a bakery, pet salon and juice bar, was criticized for pandering to gender stereotypes.

Read more: Can 'The LEGO Movie' really be THAT good?

Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:04 AM EDT, Thu October 9, 2014
Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea -- the three countries facing the biggest health crisis -- are also facing huge bills to try and contain the virus.
updated 9:16 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Twitter has lost its position in the top 20 coolest brands for the first time in three years.
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
As the crisis in Iraq escalates, CNN looks at how Iraq could crack down on ISIS' oil riches under the guidance of its new oil minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi.
updated 4:42 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Recep Tayyip Erdogan is Turkey's new president . So can he revitalize its economic fortunes?
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Experts share their tips on cities they see as emerging financial hubs...they're not where you think.
updated 11:11 AM EDT, Thu October 9, 2014
Growing numbers of us are willing to serve as bank, teacher or travel agent to people we have never met, and entrust them to serve us in turn.
updated 8:44 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
The European Union is stepping in to save its dairy from going sour.
updated 8:36 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Europe's deteriorating relationship with Russia has hit the region's growth, even before new food sanctions begin to bite.
updated 12:34 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
With cyberattacks on the rise and here to stay, it's a modern-day challenge for people and businesses to get smarter about preventing them.
updated 9:24 AM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Airstrikes, rebels seizing control of oil fields, plus a severe refugee crisis are a recipe for market panic. So why are Iraq oil prices stable?
updated 7:24 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Peer-to-peer finance lets businesses bypass bank loans. Creative companies with quirky ideas find new lending models advantageous.
updated 11:24 AM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Evidence points to pro-Russian separatists as perpetrators of the attack and Vladimir Putin is facing questions, David Clark writes.
updated 5:52 AM EDT, Wed September 3, 2014
CNN's Jim Boulden looks on the future of online shopping.
updated 10:40 AM EDT, Tue August 5, 2014
The biggest Ebola outbreak in history is taking its toll in Western Africa, hitting some of West Africa's most vulnerable economies.