Debbie Sterling, founder of GoldieBlox, recaps her experience as a female engineer and how it led to developing a product designed specifically for young girls and STEM.
“Usually when I tell people I’m an engineer they look at me and they say, ‘Ha! No, really, what do you do?’”
Debbie Sterling is an engineer who encounters assumptions based on appearances and gender each and every day. Ms. Sterling has made it her mission in life to tackle the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
In 2012, Debbie Sterling founded the company GoldieBlox, a toy company out to inspire the next generation of female engineers. GoldieBlox is a book series and construction set that engages children to build through the story of Goldie, a girl inventor solving problems by building simple machines. Their tagline?
“Curiosity Killed the Stereotype.”
Speaking at a TED Talk on the current gender disparity in the engineering field, Ms. Sterling cited the statistic that 11% of engineers at the time of her speech (2013) were women. She made the bold claim that “I don’t fit in, but I believe that our little girls will.” When considering the field of engineering as a high school student applying to colleges, Ms. Sterling explained that she closed her eyes and visualized a train engineers; she had no background knowledge of what the field truly involved. It wasn’t until her first engineering class at Stanford University that she truly developed an understanding of engineering, that it “is really the skill set to build anything you dream up in your head.”
The inspiration for GoldieBlox came from an observation Ms. Sterling made regarding young girls and how their favorite toys just so often seemed to be books. Her ‘aha’ idea, as she says: “What if I put those two things together: spatial plus verbal. A construction set plus stories. And what if those stories were about a girl engineer character named Goldie Blocks?”
And thus, GoldieBlox was born. Ms. Sterling added it on Kickstarter with an initial goal of raising $150,000 in 30 days to bring the dream to life.
Four days later, she met her goal. 30 days later, she had raised over $285,000.
To view Debbie Sterling’s TEDx Talk on YouTube, click here.