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LEGO releases new all-female character line of scientists

The whole Research Institute set can be bought for $20...but right now they're sold out. <span class=meta>(Photo/LEGO)</span>
The words of a 7-year-old just might have been the final push needed to make a set of female scientist LEGOs a reality. In January, a letter to the company by a little girl named Charlotte Benjamin went viral, and now the company has released the kind of set that Charlotte might have been waiting for.

In the letter, Charlotte said she loves LEGOs but wants the company to rethink the way it portrays women. "All the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and they had no jobs," Charlotte wrote, "but the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs, even swam with sharks."

Little did Charlotte know that an idea was in the works that might be exactly the kind of toy she wants to play with. Ellen Kooijman's concept, now known as the "Research Institute" set, represents women minifigure LEGOs in their jobs as different types of scientists. Kooijman's idea was submitted in 2012 to LEGO Ideas, which allows fans to vote on each other's designs to earn company consideration. It depicted women in all types of careers, including judge, mail carrier and firefighter. Over time, she narrowed it down to three: paleontologist, chemist and astronomer.

"Although recently LEGO has started to design and add more female figures to their sets, they are still a minority," Kooijman wrote on the LEGO Ideas site. "I have designed some professional female minifigures that also show that girls can become anything they want, including a paleontologist or an astronomer."

The company's girl-centric decisions have been the source of debate for years. Support and dissent run the gamut from those who criticize the toy-makers for being too boy-centric to those who wonder why the company can't create toys not designed for any specific gender. The company's 2012 Friends line was met with mixed reviews. Sales surpassed even the company's expectations, but critics were concerned that the toys perpetuated gender stereotypes. Most recently, a female minifigure called "Scientist" was considered by many to be a step in the right direction.

Kooijman's project reached 10,000 supporters in June 2013 and was put up for official review, but the company had not made a decision as of January 2014. That's where Charlotte's letter comes in. Her request was shared so many times that the company responded. Around the same time, they updated Kooijman's project, saying they were still evaluating whether it would become a reality.

The set was approved in June and is now available for $20, but those who have been waiting for years for these types of LEGOs may have to wait just a little longer: They're sold out.
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