There is a lot more to our young girls than just pink and princesses; they may well hold the keys to solving the skills gap in high-tech and engineering jobs.
That is the message of a new video that has gone viral on YouTube this week promoting GoldieBlox, a start-up toy company that sells games, books and clothing to encourage girls to become engineers.
The commercial features three girls bored with watching a princess television show, after which they use their baby dolls, tea sets and pink dress-up clothes to build a Rube Goldberg device that circles inside and outside of the house only to change the channel to a cartoon featuring an aspiring girl engineer playing with GoldieBlox toys.
The commercial is set to the Beastie Boys’ song “Girls,” but replaces the traditional lyrics like “Girls to do the dishes...girls to do the laundry,” with “Girls build a spaceship, girls code a new app, girls that grow up knowing that they can engineer that.”
“I thought back to my childhood with the princesses and the ponies and wondered why construction toys and math and science kits are for boys,” Debbie Sterling, founder and chief executive of GoldieBlox, told The New York Times. “We wanted to create a cultural shift and close the gender gap and fill some of these jobs that are growing at the speed of light.”
The federal government is not immune from the challenges of finding highly-skilled workers in science, technology, engineering and math fields, particularly as it faces a potential brain drain, with Baby Boomers in those fields transitioning into retirement. A report released in May by the Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton found that STEM fields are more top-heavy than other federal jobs fields, with 74 percent of federal STEM workers over age 40 and just 7.6 percent under age 30.
And while women currently make up nearly half of the American workforce, only 23 percent of workers in STEM-related jobs are women. The number of women enrolling in computer science degrees also is decreasing, from 37 percent in 1985 to just 22 percent in 2005.
Still, new jobs statistics suggest at least some positive turnaround in the number of women entering information technology. According to a Dice.com analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, nearly 40,000 jobs were created in tech consulting through September of this year, and of those, 24,100 positions have gone to women.
“I introduced my nine-year-old daughter to codeacademy.org, and she got interested in learning HTML to build her first website,” Shavran Goli, president of Dice, told Wired Workplace. “As a technology-industry parent, I’m keen on ensuring my children will make an informed decision if a tech career is right for them. The challenge is to do this at scale. Organizations like Girls Who Code are trying to get the word out, but as with most things in education, it starts with the parents first. If we get to our daughters, nieces or other girls early, there’s no telling what positive changes will come to technology in the future.”