Less Pink more Think when designing toys for girls

23 Nov

It’s O.K. to be a princess. We just think girls can build their own castles too.

Debbie Sterling, founder of Goldie Blox, engineering toys designed for girls

Hello and welcome back to SK.

Today’s post comes courtesy of My Pub’s good friend Rock Island Girl, whose keen eye caught this piece in the Nov. 22, NYT blogs. RIG is so right when she suggested I use it for SK. Enjoy the video, which in itself is an engineering marvel. Beastie Boys receive an added bonus. Here is the piece as it appeared in the NYT.

Many thanks RIG! xo LMA

  • Fewer Dolls, More Awls

Who said girls want to dress in pink and play with dolls, especially when they could be building Rube Goldberg machines instead?

That is the message of a video that has gone viral, viewed more than 6.4 million times since it was posted Monday on YouTube — an ad for GoldieBlox, a start-up toy company that sells games and books to encourage girls to become engineers.

In the ad, three girls are bored watching princesses in pink on TV. So they grab a tool kit, goggles and hard hats and set to work building a machine that sends pink teacups and baby dolls flying through the house, using umbrellas, ladders and, of course, GoldieBlox toys.

One of the kits, which teaches girls how to build a float for princesses, is $20. One of the kits, which teaches girls how to build a float for princesses, is $20.

The ad has become a hot topic of conversation on social media, generating discussion about a much broader issue: the dearth of women in the technology and engineering fields, where just a quarter of technical jobs are held by women.

“I’ve been so excited to watch this wave,” said Rachel Sklar, an advocate for women in technology and co-founder of TheLi.st, a digital media company for women. “It really does highlight that this gap is not that little girls aren’t interested in it, it really is a function of ‘you can’t be what you can’t see.’ ”

Cindy Gallop, who started the United States branch of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, the advertising agency, said the ad also illustrated how advertising created by and for women and girls is powerful because women share so frequently on social media and control most purchases. Yet ad agencies are predominantly men, she said, and the men in ads are generally heroic and funny while women are sidekicks or homemakers.

“I tell marketers and the ad industry, ‘When you want a video to go viral, this is what you do, you talk to women and girls and you talk to them in the right kind of way,’ ” Ms. Gallop said. “This ad is the absolute paradigm.”

The ad is set to the tune of “Girls” by the Beastie Boys, a decidedly anti-feminist ballad with lyrics that the ad’s creators rewrote.

An ad showing girls creating their own Rube Goldberg machine has gone viral. An ad showing girls creating their own Rube Goldberg machine has gone viral.

The Beastie Boys sang, “Girls to do the dishes/Girls to clean up my room/Girls to do the laundry/Girls and in the bathroom/Girls, that’s all I really want is girls.”

One of the actresses in the ad sings: “Girls build a spaceship/Girls code the new app/Girls that grow up knowing/That they can engineer that/Girls, that’s all we really need is girls/To bring us up to speed it’s girls/Our opportunity is girls/Don’t underestimate girls.”

“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, said in an interview. “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.”

Debbie Sterling, the founder and chief executive of GoldieBlox.GoldieBlox Debbie Sterling, the founder and chief executive of GoldieBlox.

In 2010, women earned just 18 percent of computer science degrees, down from 37 percent in 1985, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology. Analysts say the low numbers are partly because girls are not encouraged to pursue science as often or as enthusiastically as boys.

Ms. Sterling started the company two years ago, after graduating with a degree in product design from the mechanical engineering department at Stanford, where she was disappointed that there were not more women in her classes. She then worked in design and marketing.

GoldieBlox did not work with an ad agency on the video. GoldieBlox’s small team, based in Oakland, Calif., conceived the ad over Mexican food a few months ago and produced it and wrote the song. The ad was directed by the Academy, a group of filmmakers in Los Angeles. Brett Doar, an artist who specializes in making machines, created the Rube Goldberg machine.

The ad premiered on YouTube and is not scheduled to appear on TV. (GoldieBlox is a finalist, though, for an Intuit contest to pay for a Super Bowl commercial.) The company has relied on the Internet for other parts of its business, too, raising its initial capital on Kickstarter and benefiting from promotions on Upworthy, a site that posts content with a social mission.

GoldieBlox toys join others on the shelf aimed at encouraging girls to build things and consider engineering. Lego sells a pink set with a girl character, and Mattel introduced a computer engineer Barbie that wears high heels and carries a hot pink laptop.

Yet the pink-washing of those toys, including the toys from GoldieBlox, has been criticized for feeding into the same stereotypes about girls that the ad aims to knock down. One GoldieBlox kit is to build a belt drive — which is pink. Another is to build a parade float for princesses to ride. On Wednesday, they were the top-selling toys on Amazon.com.

Ms. Sterling said she did not believe pink was bad, but that girls should be encouraged to be confident and inventive. She added that new toys were in development.

“It’s O.K. to be a princess,” she said. “We just think girls can build their own castles too.”

15 Responses to “Less Pink more Think when designing toys for girls”

  1. The Barefoot Bookworm November 23, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    Cute but it’s still a little too princess-y for me, if you know what I mean.

    • louisamayalcatt November 23, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

      yeah, a lot of pink, but it’s a start.

      • The Barefoot Bookworm November 23, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

        I guess but it gets to me that the girls are shown using a toy unusual for their gender, in highly gender stereotypical ways.

        “Stop believing the hype, “Well, if it gets girls building that is all I care about.” No. Just no. Have more faith in girls that they don’t need products dripping in the pink syrup and exhausted princess stories. Be brave enough to tell new, more daring stories. If you go there, the girls will come. They don’t need pink bread crumbs leading the way. Have the strength of your convictions.”


      • louisamayalcatt November 26, 2013 at 8:25 am #

        Hello Barefood Bookworm, We love your comment. Yes, something is very wrong when toys are still being marketed by gender. Toys should be marketed for learning and creativity and not designed for one gender over the other. And the pink, we so agree. Back in my first iteration days, and even in my pub’s childhood days, (1960s) we don’t remember the over saturation of “pink,” it is exhausting. xo LMA

  2. Bruce Thiesen November 23, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    Cheers for GoldieBlox!

    • louisamayalcatt November 26, 2013 at 8:26 am #

      thanks Bruce, Goldieblox was designed in your neck of the woods. lots of good things coming out of SF, xo LMA

  3. rmudge November 24, 2013 at 1:11 am #

    I always like “boy” toys when I was a kid more than “girl” toys. I always thought I was weird when I was a kid because I didn’t like dolls at all. I loved building things and creating things. I liked Legos far more than I liked Barbie. As an adult, I am an artist of various proportions, but I took college classes in math and engineering. I’m still not considered “girly” by most people I know. I think it is great that companies are marketing products like this toward girls (pink or otherwise).

    • louisamayalcatt November 26, 2013 at 8:20 am #

      Hi rmudge, makes you wonder why toys have to be marketed for one gender or the other. Isn’t self discovery behind the whole concept of “play.” We are glad that your play led to your becoming an artist. what a wonderful way to spend adulthood, xo LMA

  4. LB November 25, 2013 at 8:11 am #

    I saw this the other day, shared on FB, and loved it! Growing up, I loved my matchbox cars.
    This of course goes right along with praising young girls for their smarts not their looks.

    • louisamayalcatt November 26, 2013 at 8:16 am #

      so right LB!!! what’s this about being pretty, like it’s the most important characteristic in the world? Brains are beautiful. xo LMA

  5. Sheila November 25, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    I always preferred my brother’s toys to mine – Star Wars action figures, matchbox cars, and Legos were much more fun and creative than brushing a doll’s hair.

  6. soonie2 November 25, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

    A nice change in direction, seems they are off to a good start!

    • louisamayalcatt November 26, 2013 at 8:10 am #

      Thanks Soonie, it will be good to see where the GoldieBlox effort goes, xo LMA

  7. Carol Jamison November 26, 2013 at 10:45 am #

    Here’s to women in hard hats, Ms. Alcatt!

    • louisamayalcatt November 26, 2013 at 10:47 am #

      what a perfect title, happy thanksgiving ms. carol, xo LMA

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