By Katie Tandy
Beyonce may sing about girls running the world, but it's clear they certainly aren't building it. Enter Debbie Sterling, a Stanford engineering grad who is feminizing the male-dominated field (89 percent to be exact) beginning with blocks.
And no, they're not pink.
GoldieBlox -- an engineering toy designed specifically for girls -- officially launched in
October following a smashing success on Kickstarter. A Lower Haight resident and
bona fide beauty with brains, Sterling raised more than $285,000 ($135,000 higher than
her goal) and has already sold 20,000 sets.
"I grew up in a small town and didn't even know what engineering was," Sterling laughs. "I was always great at math, but thought of myself as a creative type. I never saw the connection between them. I thought engineers were old men that fixed trains."
Sterling took an engineering class on a whim and realized mechanical engineering was actually "incredibly creative." Being surrounded by men, however, she constantly felt she had something to prove. "You felt threatened, like you don't belong."
Following Stanford, Sterling took a circuitous career path, working as a product designer, a brand consultant, and even as a marketing director for a jewelry company.
"Then one day I was talking to a girlfriend from Stanford and how she got stuck with second-hand Legos growing up -- a toy geared for boys -- but how it gave her building concepts from a young age. It was an epiphany moment for me. This is what I've been searching for, what I'm perfectly born to do."
Sterling immediately began sketching up "really bad ideas" and spending her free time prowling around toy stores and researching gender differences.
She soon discovered through her clandestine playtime with friends' children and even volunteer "subjects," that when asked what their favorite toy was, girls would nearly always bring her a book.
"Girls' verbal skills develop much more quickly, so I thought, 'What if there was an engaging story about a girl builder, a role model. Girls have a natural proclivity toward nurturing. She could build machines that help people or friends."
GoldieBlox couples together a book and a building set for gals aged 5-9, following the adventures of Goldie and her slew of animal pals. When the last page is turned, the lady-child will have solved a slew of problems and built a belt drive.
"Bay Area moms and dads get it. It's the epicenter of engineering and entrepreneurs here. Having this company be born here is the perfect place to be."
While GoldieBlox is currently sold out, you'll be able to snatch up the stellar toy come April at GoldieBlox.com.