As kids grow up, their beliefs about who they’ll be and what jobs they’ll be able do are often shaped by their surroundings and the things they consume. Kids need to see themselves, their interests, their futures, and their possible career paths reflected in the toys they play with, the media they engage with, and the books they read.
While boys have strong male role models in the toys and shows around them, such as “Handy Manny,” Lego Man, “Bob the Builder,” and “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” (to name a few), girls are more likely to be exposed to shows and stories about princesses and fairytales. That’s what I, and most women I know, grew up with. It was our normal, but what we didn’t realize at the time was that we lacked strong female role models that showed us that we could be more than princesses if we wanted to.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2009 women made up nearly half of the U.S. workforce, but only 24% of STEM workers. I believe that the key to changing this statistic is to educate the next generation and inspire young girls to learn about STEM in a fun and engaging way.
For me, being an engineer wasn’t something I ever considered as a little girl. It wasn’t until my high school math teacher suggested I give engineering a try that I even considered it as a potential career path. When I started my mechanical engineering program in college, I was always troubled by how few women were in the program.
There were moments when I thought about dropping out of the program, but I chose instead to face these challenges head on and made it my mission to tackle the gender gap in STEM. I thought about the early age at which that gender gap can start. I walked up and down the aisles in toy stores and saw the sea of blue toys that were all building blocks and construction toys for boys, and nothing but pink princesses and sparkles for girls. I wanted to change that, so I created the first female engineer character, Goldie Blox, to inspire young girls to pursue STEM, and built a company — GoldieBlox — around her.
What started with a set of construction toys and instruction books with stories designed to get girls building has expanded to coding apps, a YouTube series, and now a series of chapter books that bring Goldie Blox and her friends to life in a new way.
The first two books, Goldie Blox
Ruins Rules the School! and Goldie Blox and the Three Dares by Stacy McAnulty (an author and mechanical engineer!), show kids the power of STEM through fun, entertaining stories. Goldie puts a new face on the Maker generation — a relatable girl who uses STEM to navigate everyday middle school problems. She’s not a genius and she’s far from perfect, but she loves to try new things and learn.
This series paints a clear picture of a girl engineer that readers can relate to — a character I wish I had met when I was growing up, and one I hope girls and boys will read and grow with for years. And if some of them grow up to be inventors, makers, and engineers that would be okay with me too. I want them to know it’s possible.
Books Mentioned in This Article