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Viral Video Puts Spotlight on Need for Female Engineers

A video aimed at inspiring girls to use their imaginations to build (rather than pretend to be princesses) has garnered more than eight million views and drawn attention to the under-representation of women in the engineering field. The two-minute-long video, produced by toy maker GoldieBlox, features three little charmers bored with flouncing girls wearing tiaras and pink dresses on TV, so they don safety glasses, hardhats and tool belts and set off an inventive house-and-yard-wide adventure using toys and common household items.

The original video featured repurposed lyrics to the Beastie Boy’s song “Girls,” but has since been changed because GoldieBlox never received rights to the music. Amidst publicity resulting from media coverage of the legal dispute with the Beastie Boys, GoldieBlox Founder Debra Sterling stated in a letter: “Over the past week, parents have sent us pictures and videos of their kids singing with pride, building their own Rube Goldberg machines in their living room and declaring an interest in engineering. It’s been incredible to watch.”  Even the revised video has gotten more than one million hits in less than two weeks.

Sterling turned to Kickstarter.com last year to raise funds for production of the Oakland, Calif.-based company’s books and construction sets. In just five days, contributors met the goal of $150,000, and by the end of the 30-day campaign, 5,519 backers contributed $285,881. Sterling was off and running, and now her first two book/building set combinations are sold in more than 500 retail outlets, including Toys”R”Us.

GB_Box_v6_6_2013Sterling, a Stanford-educated engineer, wants to get young girls interested in engineering. She claims that only 11 percent of engineers in the U.S. are women, stating in her Kickstarter video pitch that engineering has “been a boys club for the past 100 years.”  She wants to be “disrupting the pink aisle” in toy departments. “We don’t have a national shortage of princesses, but we do have a national shortage of engineers,” she said.

The difference between boys and girls is “boys like building and girls like reading” so she put the two together. “Construction toys get kids interested in math and science and help develop spatial skills.”

GoldieBlox is one of four finalists in Intuit’s “Small Business, Big Game” competition in which the grand prize winner — determined by popular vote — wins a 30-second ad in the Super Bowl on Feb. 2. Each of the three runners-up — selected from some 15,000 entrants — will get a TV spot that will air on Fox Sports 1.  At press time, the winner had not been announced.