DIY Dollhouses Empower Young Girls With STEM Creativity
September 26, 2012
By: Hayley Solarz
In the San Francisco Bay Area, we’re proud of our technological ingenuity and growing tech industry. Yet unfortunately, we’re all too aware of the gender gap that still pervades the science and tech fields.
Three young entrepreneurs experienced firsthand how women were systematically underrepresented compared to their male counterparts – and they decided to do something about it. Enter Roominate, a toy that channels basic math, science, and engineering skills towards a fun and creative design project for young girls.
While children’s toys may seem like an unorthodox solution for bridging the gender gap, parents are recognizing that technological growth means that their children ought to foster these skills at an early age. Parents and educators alike are searching for new ways that playtime can fuse creativity with STEM-learning. So a dollhouse with circuit boards might just be an ingenious way for girls to get in on the game.
Inside Science and Tech, “Where Are The Girls?”
Maykah co-founders Jennifer Kessler, Alice Brooks and Bettina Chen point to their early childhood experiences in fueling their current passion for mechanical and electrical engineering. Each say there were given tools at a young age that didn’t reinforce gender stereotypes. Brooks was given a saw instead of a Barbie by her parents, Kessler was drawn to math riddles, and Chen enjoyed building Lego structures with her brother.
Years later, and they faced a troubling reality. Searching the faces in their college engineering and math classes, they asked themselves – where are the girls? Despite rising female representation at universities, the women were drawn to fields consistently dominated by men. And indeed, according to the National Science Foundation, only 15 percent of female college freshmen plan to major in science, technology, engineering, or math. Less than 11 percent of engineers are women.
In response to this disparity, Kesller, Brooks and Chen launched Maykah while graduate students at Stanford. Their startup aims to introduce new ways for young girls to be inspired by science and technology.
Toying With STEM
Roominate imagines a playtime experience “where every young girl is an artist, engineer, architect, and visionary”. Its key innovation is electrically powered circuit boards that girls link up themselves. What’s more, each child puts their creativity to use by building a dollhouse-sized room, customizing the furniture, and selecting decorations.
Reset supports gender diversity in tech because we hope to further enrich what is already a great source of pride for this city. We also recognize that encouraging children to hone these skills does not just support the digital economy, but affords our youngest innovators more agency and self-esteem. We support new ideas that are working to bridge this gap, so that women can attain more opportunities in these fields and equality in science and tech can become a reality.
Read about Phil Ting’s support for empowering future generations in the Bay Area tech community here. To get involved in the movement, sign up for the Reset San Francisco newsletter, or join the conversation on Facebook.