One of the things I love about the readers of Energy Girl 101 (yes, that would be you) is that you send me links to things I might be interested in reading about. So far, you’ve been right! Keep it up! Recently, I got an email suggesting I check out a new toy company, GoldieBlox. Now whether I was sent this because of my irrepressible love of LEGOs and building things or because I think the world needs more women in STEM fields, I don’t know. However, both are true.
So what is GoldieBlox? Let me start off by saying that I’m not associated with GoldieBlox in any way. After reading their story and checking out their site, I am a fan of the idea.
This is a company designing construction toys for girls. Now you may be thinking that there are plenty of building toys out there. You’ve got LEGOs, Gears, Lincoln Logs, Magformers, K’NEX… What makes these special? Other construction toys take the same toys designed with boys in mind and turn them pink. As the creator of GoldieBlox, Debbie Sterling says, “Girls do like pink. I think there’s a lot more to us than that.” She’s right, you know. You are allowed to like pink and want to build stuff.
During her research into the things that would make a construction toy appeal to girls, she discovered that “Boys like to build. Girls like to read.” What Debbie has done is create a line of construction toys and paired it with a book series. As the story moves along, kids get to build what’s in the book, right along with Goldie. In Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine, Goldie builds a machine to help her dog chase his tail. She builds a belt drive. After reading that on their website, I had a moment of “oh right, that’s what a belt drive is”. Showing little girls this and telling them what it’s called is kind of awesome in and of itself.
GoldieBlox’s wildly popular YouTube video shows girls taking their tea sets, pink feathered boas, and other toys from “the pink aisle” and turning them into a giant Rube Goldberg machine. What I love best about this video is that it takes the Beastie Boys Girls which is…well, you know the song. It isn’t exactly about empowering girls. GoldieBlox flips it on its head and these lyrics are all about “girl power.”
Why do we need something like this? Let’s face the facts. Women are underrepresented in the fields of engineering, technology, science, and math. This isn’t new information.
At the Offshore Technology Conference in May 2013, the CEO of Petrobras, Maria das Gracas Silva Foster, commented on the number of women in the energy industry during her WISE Women’s talk. Even finding statistics on the number of women in the energy sector is a challenge. There are some numbers I dug up from 2007 released by World Petroleum Council. At that time only 12% of Exxon executives were female. That number was up from 9% in 2000. According to CNN Money, Exxon Mobil has more than 99,000 employees. The number of technical recruits in the industry that are women was 20%. The number is growing, but many of the number are in positions such as human resources, communications, law, and finance. The industry falls in line with numbers from the Association for Women in Science.
According to the Association for Women in Science, women only represent 24% of the STEM workforce. The reasons for women dropping out of the STEM workforce is telling.
- Stereotypes against women as scientists,
- “Old Boys Club” culture in science and engineering departments in colleges and research universities
- Unequal promotion, salaries, grants, and benefits packages for women
- Under-recognition of women for research and scholarship in scientific disciplinary societies
Founder and CEO of GoldieBlox, Debbie Sterling’s story is a perfect example of why this issue needs to be addressed. This Stanford educated engineer had no idea what engineering was until high school. Her math teacher suggested it as a college major for her. When she gave it a shot, she was bothered by how few women were in her program. Now obsessed with the notion of “disrupting the pink aisle”, she designed a toy to introduce girls to engineering at a young age.
Building games for girls to inspire future engineers
At GoldieBlox, our goal is to get girls building. We’re here to help level the playing field in every sense of the phrase. By tapping into girls’ strong verbal skills, our story + construction set bolsters confidence in spacial skills while giving young inventors the tools they need to build and create amazing things.
In a world where men largely outnumber women in science, technology, engineering, and math…and girls lose interest in these subjects as early as age 8, GoldieBlox is determined to change the equation. Construction toys develop an early interest in these subjects, but for over a hundred years, they’ve been considered “boys’ toys”. By designing a construction toy from the female perspective, we aim to disrupt the pink aisle and inspire the future generations of female engineers. We believe there are a million girls out there who are engineers. They just might not know it yet. We think GoldieBlox can show them the way. – GoldieBlox website
Is it a good toy? I don’t know. I haven’t had a chance to play with it yet. Is it a good concept? Abso-freaking-lutely.
This is what I know. When my niece was younger, finding toys that didn’t pander to the philosophy that the only things girls want to make are fashion accessories was a huge challenge. Heading down “the pink aisle” in the stores drove me nuts. Yes, I’ve got it, all little girls are princesses…I turned to the toy section with chemistry sets and science oriented toys. I came up with kits to make slime and catch bugs. Let me tell you, friends, my niece is not a slime kind of girl. LEGOs? Well, at the time, all of them were definitely designed with boys in mind. Firemen, policemen, cars, cities, spaceships…is it okay for girls to like this stuff? Sure! However, my niece was definitely into pink and anything that was considered “for girls”, and the responses ranged from “eeeww” to “that’s for boys”. She wanted toys made for girls, and I wanted to show her that she was so much more than just a pretty pink princess. Because it isn’t enough to tell little girls they can change the world. We need to show them too.
‘Til Next Time,
- GoldieBlox rages against the princess machine (wtvr.com)
- Is GoldieBlox Just Another Case of Pink-Washed Marketing to Girls? (blogher.com)
- GoldieBlox is Making Toys to Turn Girls Into Engineers (blogher.com)
- GoldieBlox viral video: engineers, not princesses (latimes.com)
- The GoldieBlox Blacklash (persephonemagazine.com)