Debra Sterling Writes on the Next Generation of Innovators

Debra Sterling Writes on the Next Generation of Innovators


Jun 20, 2014

Inspiring a Generation of Future Innovators

By Debra Sterling, Founder and CEO of GoldieBlox

I created GoldieBlox, an engineering toy company for girls to inspire the next generation of girls to be excited about STEM. I never knew what engineering was until my high school math teacher suggested I major in engineering in college. I couldn't figure out why my math teacher thought I should be a train conductor! Nevertheless, I gave engineering a try during my freshman year at Stanford and I loved it! I graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering / Product Design, but I was always bothered by how few women were in my engineering program.

Engineers are literally the builders and designers of our world; from the products we use, to the way we communicate, to the cities we inhabit. As it stands, 13% of engineers are female. We need the female perspective when designing things to change the world.

Additionally, engineering and tech are two of the fastest growing fields today. The gender imbalance in engineering and tech creates a large disparity in job opportunities between men and women in these fields, especially with women only leading up a mere 3% of tech startups.

Research shows that the earlier kids get interested in math and science, the more likely they are to go into these fields as adults. Unfortunately, girls are losing interest in math and science as young as age 8. Take a walk through a toy store and you can begin to see why; the "blue aisle" is filled with construction toys and chemistry sets, while the "pink aisle" is filled with princesses and dolls.

After I graduated from Stanford I made it my mission to tackle the gender gap in STEM. My goal was to design a construction toy from the female perspective, aiming to disrupt the pink aisle with a toy that would introduce girls to the joy of engineering at a young age.

I spent a year studying how girls learn best, researching gender differences, talking with neuroscientists and observing children's play patterns. From my research I developed GoldieBlox, a series of interactive books and construction toys to leverage girls' advanced verbal skills to help develop and build self-confidence in their spatial skills. The star of the books is Goldie, a curious girl with a love of engineering. As she goes on adventures with her friends, she comes across problems that she must solve by building simple machines. As the story unfolds, the girls get to build what Goldie builds, developing the spatial and problem-solving skills that are fundamental to engineering.

GoldieBlox gives girls a much-needed role model through Goldie that is smart, curious, brave, and someone they can identify with. She gets girls building and helps break the stereotype that engineering is a "boys only" club. This means that GoldieBlox will nurture a generation of girls who are more confident, courageous and tech-savvy, giving them a real opportunity to contribute to the progress made by engineers in our society.

It's 2014. It's about time we opened our girls' minds beyond the pink aisle at the toy store.

It's time to build a new story so our girls can help build our future.

Debra Sterling is the founder and CEO of GoldieBlox, a toy company working to inspire the next generation of female engineers. Debbie aims to tackle the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math. She graduated from Stanford University in 2005 with a B.S. in Engineering.
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