One of the hottest videos flying around Facebook and the twitter-sphere is a two-minute promotional video for a new line of girl-friendly building toys called GoldieBlox. It’s been tweeted by hundreds of organizations and individuals, including Teach for America, Girls Incorporated, Stanford University, and even Chelsea Clinton. Yes, and NAES. A popular posting on upworthy.com about it headlines: “If 3 Little Girls Did This To My House, I’d Do Everything I Could To Get Them Full Rides To Stanford.” If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look.
The data on women in engineering continues to be appalling, especially in the United States where only 11.7% of engineers are women. Why aren’t girls interested in engineering and how do we get them more interested? GoldieBlox takes a fresh approach to this gnawing problem.
But even though GoldieBlox is clearly trying to head in the right direction, I came away from the video and website with some gnawing questions of my own.
GoldiBlox are not simply “girl-friendly,” but present an entire girls-only world. Girls and boys still don’t seem to have common interests or shared problems to solve, not unlike the gender-segregated world of Legos. And each set comes with a storybook, an approach undoubtedly designed to appeal to the socially-oriented play of girls but nonetheless a tad “inside-the-box” for what are promoted as open-ended materials. There are no big problems to solve (like saving the universe or defeating evil) or public-goods to accomplish (like rescuing people or building a bridge). Instead, the stories rely on tried-and-true gender-based themes.
One is called “GoldieBlox and the Parade Float,” described on the website as follows:
In this much-anticipated sequel, Goldie’s friends Ruby and Katinka compete in a princess pageant with the hopes of riding in the town parade. When Katinka loses the crown, Ruby and Goldie build something great together, teaching their friends that creativity and friendship are more important than any pageant. A book series plus construction set introducing Ruby, Goldie’s best friend and princess-turned-engineer.
It’s clear more girls need to be inspired to build, experiment, and create. How do we accomplish this? GoldieBlox offers lots of food for thought.