Yesterday’s most shared story from the BBC news page is titled ‘How did Lego become a gender battleground?‘
The article focuses on the introduction of three new Lego figures – a palaeontologist, an astronomer and a chemist – with the twist that they are all female. Possibly a significant development in toy marketing which has faced criticism for being sexist, but could this also be good news from a HR perspective when we consider equal opportunities?
Stereotypes can be ingrained at an early age and Lego is one of the biggest influences on children as they grow up. It might follow that this influence materialises years later when key decisions are made in relation to recruitment.
Could such a thing be possible? After all, most employers will have policies and procedures designed to minimise the risk of bad recruitment decisions. Training on equal opportunities is commonplace and those making recruitment decisions will generally be very aware of equality issues. Yet even well trained and well-intentioned recruiters are capable of making bad recruitment decisions. Could Lego be to blame? Have these plastic building blocks given us all an unconscious bias as to which gender should be employed in certain roles?
It wouldn’t be the first time that Lego has been criticised in relation to equality matters, as it has previously been highlighted that more should be done to feature characters that have disabilities or impairments. Ironically though, it was in relation to such a character being made that Legoland inadvertently fell foul of the employment equality legislation. The Company had decided to present Lego figures to their employees at a long service awards ceremony. One of the employees was disabled and the Lego figure he was given had a sling on his arm. The Employment Appeal Tribunal found that the employee had been treated less favourably as he was identified by his sling whilst other employees were identified in their Lego figures by the jobs they did such as carrying files or using telephones.
This post was edited by Christopher Davies. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Jenkins v Legoland Windsor Park Ltd EAT/1155/02