Do you remember GoldieBlox? If you don't, it is a engineering toy marketed for girls that focuses in developing construction and spatial skills.
It has been proposed as a first step, maybe to convince parents it really was worth buying, with lots of pink/purple and involving a reading part that is not present in most building toys. This is an idea by Debbie Sterling, engineer, who funded her project with a kickstarter last fall.
Today, as pointed out by readwrite.com, it is in the top 20 bestselling toys at Amazon. The whole article is worth reading, so go there. The two points I'd like to highlight are
Just because it didn't yet exist didn't mean demand wasn't there.
Yes! Also, this is feedback Sterling got from a parent
"My favorite story was when a mom wrote in about being in a public restroom with her daughter where the toilet paper dispenser was broken", Sterling said. “The girl said, ‘Mommy, it’s missing its axle!’ She’d learned the vocabulary from GoldieBlox."
Ok, ready? DISCUSS!
One big fight still to be won by feminists is female presence in STEM jobs.
The discrepancy is so huge even the slimeymost MRA will see something is wrong. That said, I personally think throwing statistics here is not going to add to the discussion, we already know things are messed up, so for concreteness I'll work with a lesser form of data: anecdotes.
I work in a physics department in a top 10 school [ranking-dependent]. While some research groups have more women than others, mine has zero female grad students to this date. We have two female postdocs (of six) and two female faculty (of nine).
So why don't people hire more women? I've peeked at the admission process a few times, and the number of applications from female candidates is remarkably smaller. Female internationals are even less present. I should say I am very proud of my department, since the whole process is not discriminative at all, but then again women don't apply as much.
The undergrad physics majors seem to have a more equilibrated ratio, but set up so that the female students will often be double majoring and then working in the other major, or simply not pursuing academic research. This correlates with the female presence inside the research community: my group does theoretical physics, highly abstract, not applicable, full of men; in optics/material science, one finds lots of concrete things, applications in industry, and a few women.
The issue is what are we telling young women and girls about science. Why even those who like science will clump in specific subfields? The answer is, at least in part, in how we raise boys and girls regarding these subjects.
When was the last time you met a little girl, and instead of stating frantically that she was gorgeous and a princess, you valued her curiosity and intellect? Don't get me wrong, it is OK to tell them they look good, but life is more than that. By enabling STEM related skills in addition to whatever skills one would normally value, you are opening doors for future presence of women in this deserted land of men that is STEM.
Toys like this help narrow the gender gap, by acquainting girls to ideas that will be useful in school and college. As a plus, it will build self confidence, which will be particularly useful whenever their ability is questioned by any asswipe they might find.
There are studies arguing how social pressure leads to worse results by female students. This is a tough problem to solve because the solution requires changing paradigms and waiting fo the next generation.
So, to Debbie Sterling, my complete and utmost respect.