• Mon, Sep 24 2012

Debbie Sterling Tells Mommyish Why Goldie Blox Is Worlds Away From ‘Girls’ LEGOs

Goldie BloxIn case you couldn’t tell last week, I’ve been a little bit excited about the launch of a new toy line called Goldie Blox. It’s an engineering toy designed specifically to appeal to girls, and it should be shipping to my house right around my daughter’s fifth birthday in February. I think it’s fate that the toy is targeted for girls ages five – nine.

This weekend, I had the amazing opportunity to chat with the founder and CEO of Goldie Blox, Debbie Sterling, about whether or not she designed her product for my daughter personally. I mean, as I’ve mentioned before, engineering is my little girl’s thing. I’ve been begging for people to help build strong role models for my little girl. This sounds like it was made for us, right?

Well, it turns out that the toy wasn’t made just for my family, but it was made with little girls like mine in mind. In fact, Sterling herself was once a girl like mine, who just never even though to pick up the blue-skewed toys in the boys’ aisle. While there’s nothing saying that girls can’t pick up traditional LEGOs or K’nex sets, there is an intimidation factor. It’s an issue that girls encounter in advanced math classes and even into the business world. Sterling explains, “I definitely thought of physics and math and engineering, I thought of those as things for boys. It’s just a cultural thing. Bill Nye the Science Guy, those types of characters are male. It’s intimidating for women to throw themselves into a male-dominated fields. Women feel the pressure to out-perform men in order to make the cut. Even at Standford, they looked at me like ‘Really?’ I always felt like you need to be a born genius in math to make it, growing up and all through college. Even now in Silicon Valley, there’s this elite group of engineers and it’s a very male-dominated club. There’s a constant reminder of why I’m making Goldie Blox.”

So, if the goal was to make the field of engineering a little more diverse, why didn’t Sterling create a gender-neutral toy that would interest boys without intimidating girls? Why go for the pink girl toy? Debbie told me, “I think what originally inspired me is because I saw such a gap in the toy aisle for something that spoke to girls. I think over time I definitely want to grow Goldie Blox into a gender-neutral brand. I think that even with the first toy, boys will like it too. But I wanted to do something just for girls to start because I think there are lots parents that wouldn’t think to buy a gender-neutral toy for their girls.”

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  • aileen_t

    I think my daughter would really like this. Where do i get it?

  • Katie

    Kind of sick of your ridiculous product bashing for absolutely no reason. Have you nothing else to occupy your mind with then a couple of sets of legos?

  • kathleen

    So basically, Sterling is creating this for parents who don’t want to buy their daughters ‘boy’ toys are who are more comfortable buying toys in a ‘girly’ palette? Shouldn’t we instead be teaching our daughters that toys don’t have to be made ‘for girls’ or ‘for boys’ for them to be able to play with them?

    I appreciate that she wants to focus on engineering toys that engage girls, but since that study* that she supposedly based her development on indicated that girls preferred to play with gender-neutral toys, I guess she isn’t as concerned with what the girls want as with what the parents are comfortable with.

    *The study opens up a whole other area that interests me, which is that when young (around age 2 or so) girls gravitate towards gender-neutral toys. Does that perhaps imply that little girls later clamor for pink and purple sparkly things because television, their parents/families, or culture tells them they should?

    • kathleen

      “Sterling is creating this for parents who don’t want to buy their
      daughters ‘boy’ toys AND who are more comfortable buying toys in a
      ‘girly’ palette”

      …sorry.

    • Leigha7

      But parents who buy their daughters gender neutral toys already HAVE things to build with. The problem is that there are a lot of parents who think that boys should only play with toys from the boy aisle and girls should only play with things from the girl aisle, and 98% of the things in the girl aisle are dolls, dress-up clothes, and baking stuff. There’s nothing wrong with any of those, but there’s a huge lack of variety. Making girl-targeted building toys is a good first step to get daughters of these parents interested. Once they’re interested, they can ask for the gender-neutral toys, and then we’ll see what happens.

      Also, as was mentioned in the article about why Lego Friends is successful, sometimes girls just want things that are made with girls in mind. I played with almost entirely gender-neutral toys growing up (with the exception of a decent-szied Barbie collection), but even today I still prefer video games with female characters. I like being able to play as a girl, not be forced to be a boy in every single game I play, and I’m an adult. Little girls who are just learning about the world need and deserve to have all kinds of different games and toys that have female characters. And boys should be playing games with female characters, too. One of the arguments against female main characters in movies and video games is that men supposedly can’t relate to female characters, yet because of this mindset, women are forced to relate to male main characters the vast majority of the time. It is obviously more than possible to relate to someone of the opposite sex, and more female characters in things boys will watch or play with is a really good way to demonstrate this. Ideally, people would watch a movie or play a game because it looks interesting, regardless of the gender (or race) of the protagonist.

      Like Sterling said, she hopes to expand it to a gender-neutral brand eventually, but it’s an independent company getting funding from Kickstarter. It needs to have a strong base first, and there is a big gap in the market for active toys marketed towards girls. The goal right now is to fill that gap.

  • KazaD

    Yes, because when the little girl decides to become an engineer, she’s going to be mighty disappointed to find out that gears and hardhats don’t come in pink. C’mon, who are we kidding here? This kind of girl “engineering” of traditional boy toys is not aimed at the girls, it’s aimed at their mothers.

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