WBI’s 2021 Top Ten LEGO List for Equity and Inclusion (and Five Opportunities)

We thought last year was a great year for LEGO, but 2021 has been just as outstanding.  In what will be an annual tradition, WBI is pleased to share its 2021 Top Ten LEGO list for Equity and Inclusion.  We took a look at all of LEGO product offerings for 2021, reviewed them through a lens of gender equity and diversity, and compiled a list of the best and worst of LEGO this year.  If you’re looking to buy LEGO for anyone on your holiday list this year, you might want to consider some of the set selections.

WBI’s Top Ten, in no particular order:

Press release on removal of gender bias in marketing

This is a really big deal for us at WBI – our core mission is to make building accessible for more women and girls, but quite frankly, LEGO marketing has not been helping in this area.  LEGO announced in October that they will be partnering with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and UNICEF to ensure LEGO products and marketing are accessible to all and free of gender bias and harmful stereotypes.  We’re looking forward to see where this goes.  If you want to read the full press release, you can do so here.

Representation in Friends sets

While the marketing around Friends may be problematic, the Friends theme has been one of the more progressive in portraying diversity in skin tones.  This year, the Friends world became more diverse with the addition of Savannah (in 41446 Heartlake City Vet Clinic and 41683 Forest Horseback Riding Center), a visually impaired Friend, and Marcel, the first time we’ve seen an older man in the theme (in 41444 Heartlake City Organic Cafe)..  We’re loving these characters in Heartlake City and are looking forward to more.  While gender equity is an issue in the Friends theme, rumour has it 2022 will bring more balance, which we’re glad to see.

40516 Everyone is Awesome

LEGO made a big, bold, and definitive statement on its commitment to diversity with 40516 Everyone is Awesome.  Designed by none other than LEGO’s VP of Design, the set is a great visual representation of LEGO’s message of diversity and inclusion.  Let’s also not forget 10291 Queer Eye – The Fab Five Loft – another set to reiterate the company’s stance.  We hear there are more sets geared toward diversity, equity, and inclusion coming, and we are here for it.

60290 Skate Park and 40485 FC Barcelona Celebration

These two sets aren’t that alike – so why we call them out here? They both feature wheelchair elements. While the FC Barcelona set is not that common, the Skate Park set is at a very reasonable price point. We love having this element more accessible.

UEFA sponsorship

LEGO has made a big deal of its new “Ready for Girls” campaign – the press release mentioned above was part of it.  Another aspect of the campaign was the announcement that LEGO was the English sponsor for the 2022 UEFA European Women’s Football Championship.  More of this, please!

Featured women LEGO set designers

We love the larger, more intricate LEGO sets!  However, the vast majority of them have been designed by men.  It’s not that there aren’t many talented women set designers at LEGO, they just haven’t had the higher profile, more expensive sets (over $100 US) in their portfolio.  In 2021, two of those more visible sets had lead women designers:  80024 The Legendary Flower Fruit Mountain designed by Liyu Lin, and 21330 Home Alone by Antica Bracanov.  Of course, there were 33 sets in the >$100 price range, and while 2/33 isn’t a great ratio, it’s a start.

Target clothing line

Perhaps LEGO was taking notes from their partnerships from last year, which provided no clothing for women at all.  There’s a new line of clothing coming the Target in the U.S. (following one in Australia), not only is it geared for kids and men but there are women’s clothes as well!  They look comfortable, and we’re very impressed that the some of the items actually include pockets!  The fact that adaptive clothing is included in the offerings makes it even better. Kudos to the designers who understand what women want – our own clothes (with pockets)!

80106 Story of Nian and 80107 Spring Lantern Festival

The Chinese New Year sets were on the list last year, and they stay here this year.  These sets continue to impress, depicting beautiful scenes with new printed pieces – no expense has been spared.  We love the continuation of multi=generational storylines.  There’s a high level of attention to detail, and the non-Eurocentric focus is great. At this writing both sets are sold out in the U.S., so we’re not the only ones who love them.  We can’t wait to see more.

Diversity in marketing

LEGO seems to have awoken to the potent force that adult fans are, and have really embraced them in an ad campaign launched earlier in the year.   There’s been diversity of the people portrayed in all of their ads, geared to all audiences – there’s a fantastic mix of gender and ethnicities.  While the black packaging for sets geared toward adults has been used since last year, LEGO upped their game and launched an “Adults Welcome” campaign earlier in the year.  It started with a glossy brochure mailed in the summer, and has continue with consistent internet and TV advertising.  We feel seen.

AT-AT Minifigure heads

Image courtesy of Brickset

The UCS AT-AT was the most impressive Star Wars model to come out this year – at an impressive price to boot – but we like the most in this set are the minifigures!  Unlike sets prior to 2020, the heads for the Imperial troops are diverse.  There are three women and three people of colour included in the Imperial troop ranks.  Small steps, but important ones, and we welcome LEGO diversifying the skin tones under those Imperial helmets.

Five Opportunities

There are always opportunities for growth, and here are WBI’s Five LEGO Opportunities for 2021, in no particular order:

Reversal of equity for CMFs

We celebrated last year when Series 20 of CMFs had a 50/50 split between male and female minifigures.  We were hoping that it was the sign of a trend, but alas, the CMF series this year did not have the same parity.   There’s always next year….

Shang Chi minifigures

The latest chapter in the Marvel Universe is Shang Chi, set in Asia.  WBI’s previous research has shown that Asian people struggle to find appropriate skin tones to represent themselves as minifigures.  Why then, we wonder, did LEGO use light nougat (the same colour used for Caucasian characters) to represent Asian characters? 

Minifigure gender balance

This is going to be a recurring item on this list until we see more change.  While LEGO is undoubtedly making strides in gender equity, there’s still a ways to go.  For example, taking a look at 2021 City sets, male coded minifigures outnumber female coded minifigures by a 60/40 ratio.

Minidoll gender balance

This is another recurring item.  We love the Friends theme and how it has introduced some terrific building techniques to girls.  However there’s also an equity issue here, too.  In 2021, there were over 70 minidolls offered in Friends sets, and 12 of them were male.  While that’s an increase from 2020, we’re hoping this trend continues to go up.

LEGO Ideas Contests

We love contests, but found the description for this one disappointing, According to this, apparently mothers don’t build Star Wars!  While we recognize that Christmas is a key holiday for some, there are other holidays celebrated by those around the world.  We suggest that the language for this contest could have been made much more inclusive.

Did we miss anything? Let us know!

About WBI

We are dedicated to inspiring girls and women to build with LEGO. We want to demonstrate that the simple plastic brick can be used in a variety of creative ways beyond traditional building. Through bricks, photography and jewelry we transform bits of plastic into items of beauty and magical worlds.
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3 Comments

  1. Please highlight the lack of Equity in the Legomasters franchise. Season two started with a diverse set of contestants, but as the season progressed you continuously saw BIPOC and female groups in the bottom two. The next to last episode the male judge even stated the female group had a great build for the horizontal castle they had to do “without the use of technic.” It was obvious the “weaknesses” of some teams were based on technical skills, and when you look up technic sets what do you see? Not colors or marketing that appeal to girls. My two girls LOVE this show and it I’d rather heartbreaking to see them root for the girls only to end up with not a one in the finale. You really mean to say no girl can be a Legomaster? Because that’s what they’re seeing. Why couldn’t they offer ALL teams a workshop on technic prior to filming so that everyone might be on a more level playing field when it comes to technical ability?

  2. I don’t agree with the assessment of the reversal of equity for CMFs. Here is the list of the CMFs in Series 21 (using names as listed on shop.lego.com):

    Paddle Surfer
    Violin Kid
    Shipwreck Survivor
    Ladybug Girl
    Pug Costume Guy
    Centaur Warrior
    Beekeeper
    Ancient Warrior
    Airplane Girl
    Space Police Guy
    Alien
    Cabaret Singer

    If assuming that the naming of a CMF as a Guy implies they are a male figure, then we have a what I would consider 5 figures to be male, 5 figures to be female (based on societal identified secondary sex characteristics), with the remaining 2 being the Alien (which I don’t think it is appropriate to assign a gender) and the violin kid. While the violin kid does not possess what are commonly seen in Lego as gender identifiers, such as a printed “hour-glass” waist, eye lashes or lips, I think it is a disservice to women who do not present as “feminine” to require lego figures to present as “feminine” to be defined as female. And I do not believe that this was your attempt, as you have addressed then characterization of women in Lego printing elsewhere (I believe). I wish that Lego would not have defined the Space Police Guy (or the Pug Costume Guy) as a guy, because it could also be a woman. I wish Lego would use more gender neutral language with characters to allow the child (or adult) be able to define the character as they see fit.

  3. No. Mother’s Day doesn’t need to be a category in the competition. Here’s why:

    Motherly relationships in LEGO Star Wars are few and far between. There are many mothers across the Star Wars universe for sure (Padme Amidala, Leia Organa, Shmi Skywalker, Bastila Shan, Mara Jade Skywalker, Mother Talzin to name a few), but how many of them are LEGO Minifigures? Like it or not, LEGO Ideas’ rules state that parts cannot be cut, glued or modified, which limits the inclusion of custom minifigures. While purist customs can be included, most people tend to use the official ones they already own (don’t believe me? Look at the entries in the contest). This could most likely be due to LEGO’s unwillingness to make sets based off of many Star Wars novels, comics and video games which depict the majority of these relationships. It’s a sad truth, but understandable given the general public is most familiar with the films and TV Series.

    There’s also the issue of relationships that are only known to the more hardcore Star Wars fans. Not everyone who enters the contest would know Mina Bonterri, Tenel Ka Djo, Veniss Doza or Suu Lawquanne. If you’re unaware with these names, that just proves my point.

    So, how many Star Wars mothers have had minifigure renditions? 4 by my count: Padme Amidala, Leia Organa, Hera Syndulla and Iden Versio. The latter two should be eliminated, as their children (Jacen Syndulla and Zay Versio respectively) have not had minifigures yet. And how can I forget, Padme dies in childbirth with Luke and Leia! Talk about a non-existent relationship! That leaves just one.

    Now let’s leave the mothers for a moment and go onto the fathers. The Cloud City Duel from The Empire Strikes Back is an obvious choice, but what about the adoptive relationship between Din Djarin and Grogu? Han Solo’s efforts to redeem his son, Ben Solo? Obi-Wan Kenobi being the ‘Father [Anakin Skywalker] never had’? Boba Fett seeking revenge against Mace Windu for the death of his father Jango Fett? All of the characters just mentioned have been represented in minifigure form, and these relationships are much more well known to the general Star Wars fans. In addition, can you name any Star Wars character who says ‘No, I am your mother’?

    In conclusion, motherly relationships might exist in the Star Wars universe, bt given how LEGO Star Wars has refused to stray too far from the films, TV Series and the occasional video game, these relationships are greatly suppressed in LEGO form. Father-child relationships in the Star Wars universe are much more common, developed and have had a bigger impact on pop culture (I am your Father). It certainly is disappointing that this is the case, but understandable on behalf of LEGO and Disney that only Father’s Day is included.

    P.S Since this article was published, and contest ended, an Aunt Beru minifigure was finally introduced after many years. That’s another minifigure to join Leia on the ‘Good-Mother-Child-Relationship-Represented-In-LEGO-Star-Wars’ plaque, but more must still be done before Mother’s day can really be celebrated in the Star Wars universe.

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