As another season of LEGO®MASTERS closes we can again appreciate a show that places creativity and fun at its core, rather than unnecessary interpersonal conflict and emotional breakdowns.
But as I watched Sunday night’s penultimate episode and looked at the line-up of six men going into the finals, it felt all too reminiscent of a scene from corporate life. LEGO®MASTERS did a good job on the gender diversity front this year. With seven out of the 16 original contests being women compared to five out of 16 last year. Yet none made it to the final.
Without digging too deep into the overrepresentation of the geeky Caucasian demographic—and I say that as a big geeky Caucasian male—it is hard to argue that the men who made it to the final did not earn their places there. But that’s not my point. While the journey to the finish line may seem organic and fair, I am left wondering whether it was a level playing field at the commencement of the competition.
It is all too easy to see a lack of diversity or the advantages of a particular demographic within a list of candidates and shrug our shoulders and say, “well that’s just the way the talent pool is” or “the way things are”. But it is more complex than that. Stereotypes, socio-cultural pressures, and the availability of opportunities for participation and development all lead up to that point.
Shifting stereotypes and organisation culture has long been a focus of things like unconscious bias training and other diversity and inclusion interventions. And progress is being made when well-designed and implemented evidence-based solutions are deployed.
But the redistribution of opportunities is a challenge that is often overlooked or poorly addressed. This is because there tends to be a perception that it is either already fair, with those most deserving having received them, or that it is a result of essentialism, in that there is no choice involved, but rather development depends on inborn and immutable qualities found in certain people.
However, just as with challenging stereotypes and cultural norms, the truth of the matter is that the distribution of opportunities is a decision. And therefore, as a decision, it can be intentionally chosen to be part of a well-designed and equitable process. The alternative is to let the status quo reign.
So, what do I hope for LEGO®MASTERS season 3? An even more diverse contestant pool would be fantastic, one that’s representative of modern Australia and one that all young people can all relate to. But, more importantly, I would like to see a greater effort made to develop a diverse pipeline of future contestants. These efforts could range from programs designed to distribute opportunities for development to underrepresented demographics, to looking at ways to attract people who might not have experience with LEGO® now but have related or transferable skills and experience.
Also, next time perhaps let the UFO rise as an afterthought, so that even in loss, there can be a moment that celebrates the journey, the talent and a terrific role model.
Written by Kieron Morris, who is rather stereotypically the Technical Manager at Cognicity Pty Ltd