Lego’s CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, who is also one of industry advocacy group Dansk Industri’s ‘ambassadors for more women in management’, did the latter title little credit when he selected 22 new employees for the toy company’s board of directors without including a single woman.
According to public broadcaster DR, the selection has ruffled feathers internally, with employees directly questioning Knudstorp on his decision.
“There were very few women to choose from,” Knudstorp told DR in his own defense.
Lego’s upper-level management has seen a decrease in female employees in the last two years. The company told the Ministry for Gender Equality in 2010 that the company wanted to fill 35 percent of its managerial positions, but that figure only reached 23 percent in 2012.
“It would have been quite good to have a woman in a top position,” Agnete Gamborg, Lego’s senior director of project management, told DR. “There was a natural reaction in the company when we saw that the board consisted solely of men. Many – myself included – thought: ‘Wow, come on.’”
Failing to name a single female to the board of directors comes at an awkward time for the company. Earlier this year, Lego came under a significant amount of criticism when it released a line of toys, called Lego Friends, aimed at girls. Several online petitions popped up against the line, along with charges that it was sexist and pandered to stereotypes.
A petition on Change.org called the line “Barbielicious” and criticised the company for giving the toys sexist activities including “lounging at the beach, brushing their hair in front of a vanity mirror, or shopping with their girlfriends”.
Even the minister for gender equality, Manu Sareen (Radikale), jumped into the fray and accused the line of reinforcing traditional gender roles. He quickly walked back his critisim, however, apologising for “formulat[ing himself] in a bombastic and blunt manner.”
Despite the criticism of Lego Friends, the line turned out to be a wise one for the company, ultimately selling twice as many sets as expected.