For toymakers like Lego, where is the line between making products children love and telling kids how they should play?
Two years ago, a 7-year-old girl named Charlotte wrote a letter to the toymaker Lego with a straightforward request.
“I love Legos,” she wrote, “but I don’t like that there are more lego boy people and barely any lego girls.” The girls in the Lego universe, Charlotte had noticed, seemed preoccupied with sitting at home, going to the beach, and shopping—while the boys had jobs, saved people, and went on adventures.
Charlotte, Lego acknowledged, had a point. “It’s fair,” said Michael McNally, a Lego spokesman who says the company receives letters from kids all the time. “Why wouldn’t there be more female representation?”
Years before Charlotte sent her letter, Lego was already keenly focused on how girls perceived the brand. It was 2008 when the toymaker decided to gather global data about who buys Legos. What they found was startling. In the United States, roughly 90 percent of Lego sets being sold were intended for boys. In other words, there was a huge untapped market of girls who weren’t building with Legos.