Part of the solution to get more women involved in STEM careers is influence at a young age. So often young girls are inadvertently encouraged to pursue "other" careers that have been more typically associated with women - teachers, nurses, receptionists, etc., while their male counterparts are encouraged to pursue "boy" careers that focus on building things and solving problems.
Why are girls being swayed one way and boys the other? Some look no further than the toy aisle at your local big box retail store. The "pink" section is riddled with Barbie's, baby dolls, ironing boards and sewing kits while the "blue" section sports building blocks, construction toys and science toys. And, unfortunately, a lot of these toys have a distinct gender divide.
But, that could be changing. New STEM Toys are being created to bridge the gap. For instance, Goldie Blox was created by mechanical engineer, Debbie Sterling, to inspire a future generation of female engineers. Goldie Blox is a building toy that caters to girls' interests and encourages spatial skills, engineering principles and confidence in problem-solving.
"It's very important that toys like Goldie Blox are being produced out in the market today," said Colleen Layman, president of SWE. "Goldie Blox provides an opportunity for creativity but aligns that with other typical interests of little girls - such as princess castles. It sends the message that princesses not only get to live in a castle, but they can build one too, and that's a really important message for girls at a young age."
Many senior engineers such as Layman will admit that they grew up playing with "boy toys" - LEGO's, Tinker Toys, K'NEX - which often labeled them as "tom boy" because those toys catered to boys and not girls.
"The "building" toys were always very male dominated, and a lot of us women engineers actually grew up with an interest in those toys," added Layman. "Now that there are more options available for girls that simultaneously pique other interests, we find ourselves reaching a new demographic and opening up options for parents, educators and kids alike."
These girl-centric problem-solving toys are reaching that girl everywhere, and we find that this aligns strongly with our message to reach that women everywhere. At SWE, we find this trend to have a great influence on girls, and we look forward to seeing more creative products on the market in the coming future.