About two months or so ago, I threw a few remarks about LEGO’s new “Female Scientists Research Institute” into that Black Hole commonly known as Facebook, raining on the then-ongoing “LEGO finally gets it!” parade by reminding everybody that this set was not a regular product but a) fansourced as a winner of the annual “Idea” competition and b) a limited edition.
And so it goes. Shortly after the launch, from the New York Times:
Within days of its appearance early this month, the Research Institute—a paleontologist, an astronomer and a chemist—sold out on Lego’s website and will not be available at major retailers, including Target and Walmart. Toys “R” Us did carry the line, but according to associates reached by telephone at two of its New York stores, it sold out at those locations as well.
Lego said the set was manufactured as a limited edition, meaning it was not mass-produced.
So there’s that.
And the problem is…well, take one guess. Avivah Wittenberg-Cox over at Harvard Business Review (emphasis mine):
Why did it take until 2014 for the world’s second-largest toy maker to offer girls (and their toy-buying parents) products they might actually want? (After all, even Barbie has been an astronaut since 1965.)
Perhaps it has something to do with the profile of LEGO’s management team, comprised almost entirely of men. The three-person board of the privately-held company is all men, led by CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp. The 21-person corporate management team has 20 men and one woman—and she’s in an internally-facing staff role, not connected to the customer base or product development. When your leadership isn’t gender-balanced, it’s tough to have a balanced customer base. The new “Research Institute” range was proposed by geoscientist Ellen Kooijman on one of the company’s crowd-sourcing sites. But it begs the question, is there really no one inside the company who might have come up with the radical idea of having women scientists feature in a 21st century toy company’s line? […]
Don’t hold your breath, though. Despite its first-day sold-out success, LEGO has decided not to continue the Research Institute line. It was only a “limited edition.” So girls, back to the pool. The guys in this boardroom don’t seem to want to give you any ideas… let alone seats at the table.
Read the whole piece—LEGO should be deeply ashamed. But the exact same problem haunts the videogame industry, and the cultural expressions that attach themselves to it; under the protective cultural umbrella of predominantly male C-level execs, we’re not only stuck with equivalents of “limited editions” in the videogame market, but also with that howling mob of male gamers descending on everything that’s not sufficiently catering to their dicks.