Happy International Women’s Day! Today is an important day in the global calendar where we celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women past, present and future.
While it’s slightly disappointing that LEGO has seemingly done away (or forgot?) with an International Women’s Day set for 2023 (we had Jane Goodall in 2022 and Amelia Earhart in 2021), I certainly have not forgotten to acknowledge this incredibly important day.
Every 3 years, I take a look at how LEGO has improved gender equality in their key sets and themes, looking specifically at the ratio of male to female minifigures and minidolls in LEGO City, Star Wars, Super Heroes and Friends.
This has been an ongoing bit of “research” that began in 2017, which I updated in 2020 and now, in 2023, it’s time to take a look at whether there’s been significant progress in balancing the minifigure gender scales.
For previous LEGO international women’s day features, do also check out my list of 50 female LEGO Designers, Creatives and Content Creators you should follow.
When I first started this research in 2017, I wanted to test a hypothesis I had at the time, that LEGO has been making strides in balancing up the genders in certain themes, but we weren’t quite there yet when it comes to gender parity.
The methodology remains the same, using Brickset’s database, I took a look at 4 themes (City, Star Wars, Super Heroes (lumped Marvel and DC and LEGO Batman movie together ) and Friends to determine the extent of female representation in sets from 2014 all the way to 2023, and I’ve updated my old data sets, as well as fix up some issues in my last one (namely incomplete 2017 data).
As always, I didn’t include polybags, exclusive promos or even Combo Packs in these data sets.
Unsurprisingly, much progress has been made in the last 3 years, and aligns well with LEGO’s imperative to remove gender bias from their products.
LEGO City Gender Equality Progress 2023
Here’s a look at what it looks like for LEGO City, a theme that has traditionally been marketed as a “boys theme”.
2022 was a standout year in particular, with more sets than ever containing an equal number of male and female minifigures, which is a massive achievement, and builds upon the strong momentum that has been building since 2017.
It’s a far cry from 2014 and 2015, where only 4 to 5 sets released per year had equal number of male and female minifigures.
If you’re a fan of LEGO City, you may have noticed LEGO making it a regular practice to depict women doing the same jobs or roles as men, from dangerous emergency services work, to being shuttled off into a space station.
A simple message that girls can achieve and do the same things that boys can.
In fact, LEGO have gone further, and in some cases like 60347 Grocery Store, we even have more female minifigures than male minifigures, which I think is a really positive sign of where things are headed.
This also shows up in the overall LEGO City minifigure population data, where we are almost at parity, which is remarkable and shows just how far LEGO has come since 2014 when there was only 1 female minifigure for every 6 male City minifigures.
In 2020, I wrote the following, and I’m happy to see that my optimism was vindicated.
The added representation could also hopefully inform parents that City is slowly but surely becoming more gender-neutral, and feel comfortable about buying Police, Fire, or Space sets for their daughters, instead of gravitate towards Friends sets.
I can’t wait to see how 2020 and beyond will turn out for LEGO City, and I really have to congratulate and commend the LEGO Design and Product team for making such huge strides in LEGO City.
I really can’t wait to see how LEGO City continues this trend, and it seems like it’s only a matter of time till we hit that 1:1 female to male ratio in City.
LEGO Star Wars Gender Equality Progress 2023
LEGO Star Wars traditionally has had a bit of catching up to do, but it looks like 2022 might be the inflection point with it being the year where we’ve had the least lopsided gender representation in sets.
Licensed themes like Star Wars are always tricky when it comes to improving female minifigure representation in, as it heavily relies on the IP and characters that Lucasfilm creates and depicts to balance the scales.
An example of this is in 2018, following The Last Jedi, and 2019 with The Rise of Skywalker where we actually had more key female roles on-screen (like Rey, Rose and Jannah) which gives LEGO the bandwidth to include more female characters.
That said, the overall LEGO Star Wars minifigure population is still heavily skewed towards males, but thankfully, females minifigures are beginning to close the gap. Maybe one day, they’ll actually outnumber droids!
A really clever way the LEGO Star Wars Design Team have been closing the gender (and racial) gap is the inclusion of female heads with Imperial Stormtroopers, and Snowtroopers.
75320 Snowtrooper Battle Pack for example has 2 male and 2 female Imperial soldiers, which is a really cool way to mix in some diversity into a theme that hasn’t been traditionally been great at it.
LEGO Super Heroes Gender Equality Progress 2023
Another theme that has traditionally struggled with minifigure gender equality is LEGO Marvel and DC Super Heroes, which again, due to the IP and portrayals on the big screen, may limit the types of characters LEGO can use in the sets.
Outside of outlier years like 2017, which saw a huge boost in balanced gender sets due to the LEGO Batman Movie where it was common to have balanced or even female dominated sets like 70906 The Joker Notorious Lowrider.
Some progress is being made here, but again, it does still skew heavily towards male minifigures and protagonists, just like the big Marvel and DC movies themselves do.
That said 2022 was the closest it’s been with a 70-30 male to female split, which isn’t fantastic but it’s the closest the gap has been, but there’s still plenty of work to be done here in LEGO Super Heroes.
Recent sets like 76211 Shuri’s Sunbird have been great examples where we got more female minifigures than male ones, which is super rare for LEGO Super Heroes, so hopefully we see more like this in the future.
LEGO Friends Gender Equality Progress 2023
And last but not least, we have LEGO Friends, which for the longest time had the opposite problem – that it skewed overwhelmingly towards girls, which were the theme’s original target market.
This has perennially been a huge challenge with LEGO Friends, and even as recent as 2021, the vast number of sets did not include a single male minidoll.
That all flipped in 2022, where all of a sudden, we were given so many more minidolls, with a majority of sets having an equal number of male and female minidolls, which was unprecedented in LEGO Friends history.
Looking back in hindsight, it’s easy to see that 2022 was vital in laying the groundwork for the 2023 LEGO Friends relaunch, which also introduced 3 new main characters that are boys, reflecting the diversity that kids and parents want to see in their sets.
When looking at the overall population of minidolls, there’s still some catching up to do, but it’s remarkable nonetheless to see the overall number of male minidolls almost triple in the span of a year, and now, it’s such a common occurrence to get both male and female minidolls in sets.
In fact, 2023 also gave us 41754 Leo’s Room, which is the first ever LEGO Friends set to not include any female minidolls!
I’m really excited to see how the rest of 2023 turns out, and maybe I might not wait another 3 years to update the data here.
LEGO crosses the gender inflection point in 2022
It’s clear from the data that 2022 was an extremely significant year for LEGO, with the portfolio demonstrating a concerted effort to get as close as humanly possible to gender parity.
LEGO City is ahead of the pack, and is a frontrunner and leader of how to get the gender mix right, with Friends close behind in also reversing the minidoll gender gap in such a short amount of time.
It’s even encouraging to see more progress being made with LEGO Star Wars, which for the longest time have had one of the most imbalanced themes when it came to male and female minifigures.
It’s only March, but I fully expect this trend to become embedded in most LEGO themes, as we head into 2023 and uncover more of what LEGO has in-store for us this year.
Looking at the data, it’s been a long hard slog for LEGO to get to this point, and I think that the work that goes behind the scenes to shift a company this size to be more progressive and equitable gender-wise cannot be overstated enough, and this was a really lovely exercise for me to put together for International Women’s Day 2023.
For more IWD-related LEGO content, be sure to check out Tips and Bricks on Instagram!
Also, shame that there’s no IWD-themed set this year. Feels like a wasted opportunity to honour and memorialise more important female historical figures in LEGO form.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on gender representation and equality with LEGO Minifigures. Have you noticed LEGO improving in this regard with the sets you buy?
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