Products aimed at children, including toys, have long reflected and reinforced gender stereotypes. Because science has long been associated with Y chromosomes, science-oriented playthings have traditionally been marketed to boys, an outdated sales strategy that only recently aroused "a storm of protest from shoppers and equality groups," according to The Guardian.
So, it seems significant that LEGO, the maker of the vastly popular and influential plastic building sets, has introduced to the array of minifigures that children can use to populate their LEGO creations one Professor C. Bodin, aka "The Scientist."
Prof. B is featured in a female minifigure set created by geochemist Alatariel Elensar through LEGO CUUSOO, a site where people can suggest new minifigures. If a proposal wins wide support from LEGO fans, the company may produce it. "I have designed some professional female minifigures that also show that girls can become anything they want, including a paleontologist or an astronomer," states Elensar on the LEGO CUUSOO Web site.
Decked out in a lab coat, lipstick, and a stylish short bob, and holding a flask in each blue-gloved hand, Prof. B. appears to be the first female lab researcher to join the official LEGO cast—although previous LEGO creations include a cowgirl, a warrior woman, and an alien villainess. Dr. Bodin "has been a long time coming," writes Maia Weinstock at Scientific American in a detailed, informative, and amusing blog post on the iconography, scientific and otherwise, of the plastic bricks.
Escaping from the pink ghetto that, Weinstock notes, has previously confined most female LEGO figures, the professor sports a purple shirt between her white lapels. It's not clear what field she works in but she obviously excels because she "won the coveted Nobrick Prize for her discovery of the theoretical System/DUPLO Interface!" according to a bio provided by LEGO.
Having bridged what Weinstock calls the "LEGO gender gap," perhaps this high-impact researcher can now help bridge the gender gap in real-life science.