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‘Girls as young as 5 having creativity impacted by perfection, language bias pressure’

● A new global study from the LEGO Group reveals girls feel intense pressure to be perfect and believe adults give boys more recognition for their creative work, with parents saying this trend continues into adulthood.

● With three quarters of girls aspiring to work in creative industries, this underscores the need for urgent change. A new short film, ‘More Than Perfect’ spotlights the creative possibilities that are unlocked when girls are free to play unstoppable.

● Free workshops online and in LEGO Retail stores launch to help families nurture creative confidence through the power of play and everyday language. Also launched today, a ‘10 Steps to Fostering Creative Confidence’ guide in collaboration with Harvard-trained parenting researcher and bestselling author, Jennifer B Wallace.

● Committed to playing its part and driving systemic change, the company will partner with Save the Children and the LEGO Foundation to address some of these societal issues.

Auckland, New Zealand – March 6th, 2024: The LEGO Group has today unveiled findings from new global research looking into societal trends affecting children’s creative confidence. It finds that the pressure of perfection and everyday vocabulary pose a risk, particularly for girls, in holding them back from reaching their full creative potential. The company hopes to spotlight that by simply adjusting our language, we can help shape a brighter future for girls.

Surveying over 61,500 parents and children aged 5-12 years old across 36 countries, the data calls for societal change to ensure girls can fulfil their creative aspirations and play unstoppable, with researchers finding girls as young as five are having their creative confidence stifled.

At this young age, three quarters (76%) feel confident in their creativity, but this declines as they get older and two-thirds of all girls often feel worried to share their ideas. This is compounded by the burden of perfectionism and anxiety about making mistakes (72%). Parents agree – 71 percent say girls are more likely to hold back developing their ideas, because of these pressures.

Harvard-trained parenting researcher and bestselling author, Jennifer B Wallace says, “When children fear failing, it can hamper their willingness to explore and think outside the box. This impacts the key skill of creative confidence – which can carry into adulthood. Creative confidence is the self-assurance to generate ideas, take risks and contribute unique solutions without fear of failure. It’s been found to be a cornerstone of well-being by boosting self-esteem, reducing stress, and increasing happiness, as well as a top-ranked skill for future workplaces according to the World Economic Forum. With over three quarters of girls aspiring to work in creative industries it underscores the urgent need for change.”

More than 3 in 5 girls report feeling pressure by society’s messages of perfection. While this is a concern for all children, both parents and children acknowledge that girls face heightened pressures to be perfect and worry more about making mistakes.

The good news: by changing our language we can help change the future. The study shows that everyday language is playing a role inhibiting girls’ from freely expressing themselves creatively. In fact, nearly two-thirds of girls aged 5-12 say language they hear makes them worry about making mistakes, feel like they shouldn’t experiment, or reinforces this need to be perfect.

Findings also highlight a significant societal bias disproportionately impacting girls, with parents noting a prevailing trend where gendered descriptions are commonly used to assess the creative outputs of male and female creators. More specifically, society is around 7x more likely to attribute terms like “sweet”, “pretty”, “cute” and “beautiful” exclusively to girls. While terms such as “brave”, “cool”, “genius” and “innovative” are twice as likely to be attributed exclusively to boys.

The data also reveals over half of children believe adults listen more to boys’ creative ideas than those of girls. 68 percent of parents also agree that society takes male creatives more seriously than females.

In a new short film, ‘More Than Perfect’, the LEGO Group explores the effect that language can have on girls’ creative confidence, as we see them being taken through two different challenges and presented with some of the global research findings. We hear powerful reflections from the girls and capture parents’ reactions.

“What we say early sets in deep. Biased language reinforces traditional gender roles, which can play a role in limiting girls’ creativity and perpetuating systemic inequalities. It can confine them to narrow categories, such as valuing aesthetics over innovation. This implicit bias can hamper girls’ confidence and restrict their opportunities in male-dominated fields. Challenging these biases is essential for fostering an inclusive society where girls can fully explore their creative potential. Every girl deserves the freedom to explore her creativity without fear or pressure,” says Wallace.

According to girls themselves, 80 percent say they would be less afraid to try new things if mistakes are praised more as learning opportunities, eight in ten would also feel more confident to show their work and would value progress over perfection. Nine in ten believe their confidence would be boosted if adults focused more on the creative process of their work instead of the final output – with 86 percent admitting this would make them feel less worried about making mistakes. More specifically, girls report being uplifted by growth-mindset compliments such as ‘imaginative,’ ‘brave’ and ‘inspiring.’

TIME TO PLAY: THERE’S FUN TO BE HAD!

“A perfection mindset encourages us to stay in our lanes, to fear failure and give up at the first sign of struggle. In contrast, a growth mindset encourages us to be brave, embrace failure and to build ourselves up. It creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment”, explains Dr Anika Petrella, Researcher and Psychotherapist. “When we filmed ‘More Than Perfect’ it was fascinating to observe the impact that our words had on girls’ ability to play and experiment freely.

Teaching girls that experimentation triumphs over perfection is crucial to empower their authentic, creative selves and what better way to do this than through play?”. 55% girls and 57% boys, agree. 68% of girls and boys agree that girls worry more about making mistakes than boys. 75% of parents say girls face heightened pressure, compared to boys. 62% of children feel girls are expected to be more perfect than boys.

Nine in ten parents say play helps their child’s self-expression, boosts their confidence to experiment, builds creative confidence and provides a safe space to explore and experiment without fear of failure.

Eight in nine children feel they can be their true selves during playtime – they are less worried about making mistakes and being judged (85%), just as they feel more confident sharing their ideas and creative work when playing (88%).

The LEGO System in Play is highly valued by girls as a way to experiment (90%). Notably, 82 percent say that LEGO play helps them overcome fear of mistakes, 91 percent feel more confident in their creative skills, and 84 percent feel it helps them learn that progress is more important than perfection.

Parents share these beliefs with over eight in ten also adding that LEGO play helps their child appreciate mistakes as a natural part of the creative process. Yet, while parents perceive the LEGO brand as a good example of an inclusive toy brand, LEGO play is still considered more relevant to boys than girls, according to 61 percent of parents.

“In an increasingly AI-driven world, creativity is the magic that will set us apart. LEGO play, whether it’s free building or instruction-based, helps develop essential skills that are equally relevant to all children in today’s world. Through building and rebuilding, it becomes a bedrock for creative confidence, courage and self-belief. And this is key, because when girls have the space and freedom to express themselves fully, they are unstoppable. They are playful inventors, curious scientists, daring dreamers and bold adventurers – and that’s exactly what our play unstoppable movement celebrates,” says Alero Akuya, VP of Global Brand at the LEGO Group.

RESOURCES AND INITIATIVES TO DRIVE CHANGE

The LEGO Group is committed to inspiring and developing the builders of tomorrow through the power of play. Together with partners and industry experts the company pledges to continue to spotlight and help break down limiting societal stereotypes and biases that hold back creative potential. This includes further broadening inclusion and gender equality across its products and content with support from its ongoing partnership with the Geena Davies Institute on Gender in Media.

To help champion and stand up for girls’ creativity, the LEGO Group is rolling out its biggest ever campaign celebrating girls and their creative worlds. Introduced as part of this is a series of exciting, free creativity workshops in select LEGO Stores and on LEGO.com aimed at young creators aged 6-12.

Developed to show the power of creative freedom, the building workshops focus on Entertainment, Space, Gaming, Dreams & Imaginations and will take place throughout the year – starting this month.

Sign-up for the first in-store workshops is now open but be quick, tickets go fast! To help equip parents with fun tips to support creative development, the LEGO Group has developed a new ‘10 Steps to Fostering Creative Confidence’ guide in collaboration with Harvard-trained parenting researcher and bestselling author Jennifer Wallace. Equally, to engage children on the critical topic of creative confidence, new content developed with Peppy Pals will go live on LEGO Life in April.

A new programme from the long-standing partnership between the LEGO Group, the LEGO Foundation and Save the Children will see initiatives put into place in select countries to encourage systemic change.

Let’s celebrate girls’ creative powers and let her play unstoppable by removing the pressure for perfection and gendered language bias.

For more information go to LEGO.com

 

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