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Society of Women Engineers

STEM Dolls for Girls Offer New Inspiration

STEM dolls are being designed and sold in stores to peak the interest of young girls in STEM careers.

Published On: January 2016

Move over Malibu Barbie, STEM Dolls Are Here

More young girls are showing an interest in STEM. In fact, Forbes recently covered a new nationwide survey, The Fatherly Imagination Report, that found that 41 percent of girls age 1-10 want to go into STEM careers compared to 32 percent of boys. So how do we cultivate those aspirations and make them a reality?

Just before the holidays, Chicago Tribune’s Becky Yerak took a look at dolls that aren’t your typical Malibu Barbie…astronomer dolls, fossil hunter dollsSTEM dolls for girls. In her article, Yerak talked to a variety of Chicago-area moms and dads and found that many of their daughters were already asking for STEM related toys, such as doctor outfits and construction hats for their female dolls.

Some Chicago toy stores are meeting the demand. Chicago’s Timeless Toys carries Lottie dolls and GoldieBlox lines. Store manager, Scott Friedland, told Yerak the store sold seven times as many STEM dolls in 2015 as it did in 2014. And, GoldieBlox is the top-selling doll in the Lincoln Square toy store.

In an October, 2015 toy industry report, BMO Capital Markets called STEM toys one of five “new and emerging trends.” A company called littleBits offers a library of electronics that snap together with magnets for invention and learning. It’s owner, Ayeh Bdeir, is an engineer. NY1 covered an event recently where girls were taught how to use electronics in art projects.

But, Yerak’s article points out that Barbie still rules, according to online shopping tracker Adobe. The top five selling toys on cyber Monday included Barbie Dream House and Shopkins dolls, whose tagline is “Once you shop, you can’t stop.”

Mattel has a line of career Barbies, which include a scientist, doctor, and veterinarian, but the “I Can Be a Computer Engineer” Barbie ran into problems when its accompanying book portrayed Barbie as incompetent with her computer and needing help from boys to fix it. Mattel apologized and withdrew the book.

STEM dolls for girls are a starting point – a way to get girls exposed to those STEM subjects and hold their interests. There’s still work to be done, but toys like GoldiBlox and Mighty Makers, which are building blocks and sets designed for girls, are a big step in the right direction. The market hasn’t completely changed yet, but with each Lottie doll sold, a small impact can be made!

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