Boys Like to Build, Girls Like Dolls?

Who would have thought that the pink section of the toy store is about the way you look, and the blue section is about the way you think? According to Debbie Sterling, Founder and CEO of GoldieBlox, that is what she learned in her quest to design and make available toys that level the playing field by introducing engineering to girls at a young age. It was only fitting at an evening reception arranged by an association focused on educating girls and women about opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) that her keynote speech focused on challenging the status quo.

From classroom to boardroom, Women in Technology (WiT) supports girls and women to write their story as they explore and succeed at every stage of their STEM careers. It is no surprise then, as a technology product and solution provider, that Dell and Dell Services added another year in the books as the keynote sponsor for WiT Connect.

Main room of the WiT Connect event sponsored by Dell and Dell Services

It was only a year ago, at that very same conference that Mona Charif, vice president of Marketing and Communications, Dell Services shared her story with the WiT Connect audience. She spoke about the criticality of women stepping up as trailblazers and risk takers. This year, her latest message focusses on the importance of using technology to propel and groom young girls in traditional programs, such as the Girl Scouts, to be future leaders in the modern economy.

The depth of experience that enriches Charif's team is reflected in one of the WiT Connect 2016 attending members, Kristi Adams, director of Healthcare Services Marketing, Dell Services, who took the stage this year for opening sponsor remarks. Adams has invested 27 years with Dell Services. In that time, she has coached and observed many colleagues.

We have a chance to make gender equality a reality, to inspire both women and men to be the catalysts and advocates for a truly diverse team that better reflects our customer base,” she told the audience.

These sentiments are mirrored across many of the leadership members within Dell Services, including Shilpa Bhandari, executive director at Dell Services.

This is a program I am passionate about, therefore it was important to me, since I was not present at WiT this year, to have several of my team members present,” she said

Bhandari was unable to attend due to corporate recognition as an FY16 Circle of Excellence winner for Sales Leaders. The award is reserved for those who share a common commitment to customers, Dell’s business goals, making ethical decisions critical to success, and who have greater than 75 percent positive reviews as inspiring leaders in an internal survey.

Andrew Weems, Regional Director of the Southeast, Dell, made sure his team was both participating in WiT, and that a Dell Latitude 13 7370 laptop was donated as part of the auction for WiT Connect through the Dell Giving Program.

We have been engaging the WiT program in Atlanta for years, and cannot imagine not including this in our event program. It makes everyone feel great – our employees, our community, our customers,” Weems said.

It is important to celebrate every success, as both genders are still working to abolish implicit bias. Addressing that very bias inevitably became the catalyst in Debbie Sterling’s campaign to create toys that stimulated tinkering and building in young girls. In part of her keynote, she shared how, as part of her research, she attended a toy show to obtain reviews of her products from some of the most well-known toy brands in the industry.

She was told, “You can’t fight nature. Boys like to build, girls like dolls.”

As she painted this vivid scene, the audience could well-imagine her walking out of the show completely dejected. She had quit her job, made several sacrifices, only to be hit with a loaded statement that reduced girls’ and women’s abilities in math and science to insufficient skill levels compared to boys and men. Her response elicited roaring applause, “Just because it doesn't exist, doesn't mean it shouldn't.” Now, four years and millions of sold products later, Goldieblox continues to disrupt the pink aisle and inspire the future generation of female engineers.

Changing the perception of what an engineer can look like is no longer a hushed conversation. More campaigns, such as #iLookLikeAnEngineer, new toys thanks to Goldieblox, and powerful advocates like Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski speak out on the importance of diversity in leadership and in critical fields of STEM every day.  We thank WiT for continuing to act as a platform and call to action on educating girls and women on the opportunities available for their personal growth. We are proud to be such a long-standing sponsor of growth and development that will undoubtedly impact and improve our collective future.

To see photos of WiT and Dell Services, please go to our Flickr album

About the Author: Anka Jedry