When the new lady Lego “scientists” came out in June, I wrote about it critically here. Slapping bangs on a botanist, I said, will not suffice. Who cares what the scientist looks like if the entire product line reinforces the boys-toys-are-separate-from-girls-toys mantra that discourages girls from pursuing male-dominated fields like STEM to begin with?
Three months later, I’ve got backup.
When I did a little digging back in June, I found that the management team over in Lego Land has just a token few ladies. No wonder the company’s first attempts at broadening its fan base left room for improvement. When you are designing and marketing specifically for women, sometimes you need a woman’s perspective. Not necessarily in the CMO role, which I was not too surprised to find filled by a man. But maybe it would have been helpful to have more than two females as part of the 25-person senior management team, or more than one woman on the board of directors.
Now an expert weighs in. Aviva Wittenberg-Cox, a CEO, author and writer, discusses Lego’s girl problem over at the Harvard Business Review blog. She examined the company’s history and concurred that its challenge in integrating girls to its market is only exacerbated by having virtually no female representation at the C suite level.
All this begs the more critical and, yes, immediate, issue of supporting the promotion of women to prominent, external-facing management positions and board of director seats. We all know the statistics. Only about 17% of Fortune 500 board seats are filled by women (there’s a thoughtful discussion of this here).
A few trends make me hopeful that the tides may change. First, attention may encourage companies to identify promising female candidates; second, and more importantly, many boards are now searching for social media expertise, an industry in which women have led the way to become some of the preeminent experts.
None of this matters to my daughters, of course, who for now stick to their Goldieblox and their classically male (except we don’t tell them that) Lego engineer sets. I probably can’t convince Lego to shake up its corporate structure, but I can encourage my girls to pursue their wildly creative, technically demanding dreams. And when they do, maybe they’ll land seats on Lego’s board.