Monday, July 22, 2013

When You Picture an Engineer, You Probably Don't Picture Me

Debbie Sterling has experienced life as someone who doesn't fit in.  In her inspiring TEDx talk, she shares her story of how she discovered engineering, and makes a bold claim: "I don't fit in, but I believe that our little girls will."

Why care about the fact that most engineers are men? As Debbie and many others have pointed out, "with half the population being female, we deserve to have the female perspective" on today's top innovations.  From a very young age, girls are taught by the pink toy aisle that they should only want to be princesses.  While the boys play with building sets that inspire them to pursue math and science, girls get only dolls and makeup kits.

That's probably one reason why Debbie was surprised to hear her high school math teacher suggest engineering as a major when she headed off to Stanford.  But the advice lingered, and she gave mechanical engineering a shot.  Turns out, while she definitely didn't feel like she fit in, she did love engineering!

Debbie was enthralled with the fact that, as an engineer, you get to invent and design things.  "How empowering to be able to build whatever you want!"

After graduating with the knowledge that "it's not about being a born genius, it's about how hard you work," Debbie had her sights set on an invention of her own.  She wanted to give girls the same opportunity to discover engineering as the boys had with their construction toys.  She designed GoldieBlox.

Debbie researched what sort of toys girls would like, and quickly found that they got bored of traditional construction sets rather quickly.  When working directly with the girls, she found out what they really loved: books and reading! That where she got the "simple, aha idea: what if I put those two things together?"

It worked! "I had little girls in tutus building belt drives - it was awesome."

And even though the old men in suits at the New York Toy Fair said that construction sets for girls just don't sell, Debbie's GoldieBlox Kickstarter campaign has proven otherwise.  (Be sure to check out my unboxing post as well!)

Turns out gold really is the new pink.


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