All Girls Should Watch GoldieBlox Founder’s TEDx Talk

Only 15% of engineers in the U.S. today are women. Given those low figures, it’s time we do a better job educating young girls about what engineering actually is and the important role it plays in all types of industries.  At the same time, we need to paint a picture of the wide variety of interesting and rewarding engineering career paths available to women.

If your daughter is considering engineering or you want her to learn more about it, I would recommend having her watch Debbie Sterling’s inspiring TEDxPSU talk about girls and engineering. Debbie is a Stanford engineering graduate and the founder and CEO of GoldieBlox, a company that makes construction toys targeted for girls.

I learned about the video from my 8th-grade daughter; her art teacher showed the video in class. I watched the presentation and found her story to be extremely moving and relatable for young girls, teens, and adults. What I found especially interesting was that in high school Debbie didn’t know what engineering was and although her math teacher recommended she pursue engineering because she thought she would excel at it, Debbie was too embarrassed to ask her teacher for more information.

Girls Engineer It Day 2014
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sponsors “Girls Engineer It Day 2014”

It wasn’t until Debbie took her first engineering class at Stanford (ME101), that she finally understood what engineering was all about. There, she learned that engineering was a “skill set that allows you to build anything you dream up in your head” and once she realized she could invent and design things, she was hooked.

What parents and educators can take away from this video:

  1. We need to better educate girls during middle school and high school about what engineering is at a basic level (i.e., invent, design, build, solve problems, etc.).
  2. We should review the different type of disciplines with girls so they can understand their options (e.g., mechanical, chemical, electrical, computer systems, etc.).
  3. We should give girls an idea of what kind of classes they will take in college.
  4. We need to dispel preconceived notions that engineering is dry and boring and emphasize the variety of rewarding jobs.

The important points girls will take away from this video:

  1. Engineering makes a difference in the world. Be part of a field that solves problems and makes significant contributions in such areas as medical breakthroughs and global warming.
  2. Creativity matters. Creativity goes hand-in-hand with the math and science aspects of engineering. Engineering is not a one-dimensional field– just because you like art and design, does not mean you can’t like math and science too. In fact, they all are important skills for engineers to have.
  3. Your teachers are a valuable resource. Talk with your middle school and high school teachers about engineering classes, majors and job ideas. It was Debbie’s high school math teacher who recommended she major in engineering — Debbie had never considered it.
  4. Challenge the status quo. Debbie often felt like an outsider in college and when she was pitching GoldieBlox products to investors, she was the rare woman in her field. But she didn’t let it get her down. I loved when she said, “Just because this is how things are, it doesn’t mean it’s how it has to be.”

Debbie Sterling’s story is a testament to perseverance in the face of adversity. She never gave up on her dream to create engineering toys for girls, and because of that drive, Debbie is now inspiring the next generation of female engineers. Her goal is to make sure the next generation of girls not only goes into engineering but feels like they “fit in.”

Image Source: Girls Engineer It Day 2014 by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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