Mary Couzin on Why I’m Involved in the DevelopHer Challenge
It isn’t often one finds their picture next to Geena Davis, Maria Bello and Claire Nunn. I admire these women for their many talents and especially for getting involved in DevelopHERChallenge. I’m honored to be one of the judges.
Their mission is one I can get behind. Manufacturers and inventors - do you have a STEM product? Studies show we become what we play with. Enter the DevelopHERChallenge now! To find out more about the Challenge, read the interview with 2 of the organizers, Andrea Guendelman and Jane Saltzman. Kudos to them for taking this on and making a difference!
HOW IS DEVELOPHER CHANGING PLAY?
DevelopHer seeks to bring to the toy market new products that stimulate creative play and spatial and structural thinking skills. DevelopHer believes toys, games and device/computer-based play is the exact medium needed to introduce children, and specifically girls, to the wonders of technology and computer skills.
WHY DOES PLAY NEED TO BE CHANGED?
The world is changing and we all must adapt, from the smallest child to the oldest individuals. Introducing young children to science and technology concepts at an early age prepares them for years of education. It also prepares them for a rapidly changing world in which scientific and technological knowledge and skills will become increasingly important.
Today, toys and game are segregated by gender. Girls’ toys lean heavily on a perceived desire of girls to focus on their looks, their friends and their ability to please others. Boys’ toys focus more on imaginative, constructive play. Many girls’ toys fail to prepare them for a future in the information technology age. For this reason alone, play needs to change.
IS DEVELOPHER ONLY FOCUSED ON GIRLS' TOYS?
Yes and no. DevelopHer’s initial effort focuses on girls where the toys are failing them. As they stroll the toy aisles, girls and their caregivers see limited options for toys and games that engage girls’ creative, structural and spatial abilities.
DevelopHer’s aims to usher more STEM-focused toys into the marketplace and particularly into under-served communities. We pay particular attention to toys that engage young girls. However, our ultimate goal is that toy options that focus on STEM-related abilities achieve gender parity. We aim to have toys and games that do not require gender specificity to engage a child’s attention.
DO YOU CONSIDER DEVELOPHER TO BE GENDER NEUTRAL?
Gender neutrality would be ideal. However, our society is nowhere close to that goal in STEM related fields as evident by the current state of toy options, the numbers of girls studying computer coding and other tech related fields, the number of women college graduates in STEM fields, and employment data for women in STEM fields. DevelopHer believes that it is crucial to introduce young girls (and hopefully ALL children) to the thinking skills required for our technological world at an early age.
IS THE PROBLEM YOU ARE TRYING TO ADDRESS NOT BEING ADDRESSED BY ANYONE ELSE?
We are not aware of any other organizations whose sole focus is changing play and changing the design of toys marketed to girls and all children. Entrepreneurs and designers have begun pushing out toys that engage young children in STEM- related skills. Recently, we have seen a growing interest in marketing these toys directly to girls. DevelopHer will encourage these designers via an accelerator program and connecting them to distribution channels.
HOW CAN ENTREPRENEURS PARTICIPATE?
Entrepreneurs, makers and inventors can submit their ideas under the “participate” link at www.developherchallenge.org.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO PROMPT PARTICIPATION?
We are promoting our event at various venues all over the country. We just participated in the Thiel Foundation Summit in San Francisco and we will be presenting at the Colorado Technology Association in Colorado and the Chicago Toy Fair in late November. We are also a promotion partner in the Mozilla webmaker parties during the summer of 2014.
IS THIS AN INTERNATIONAL CHALLENGE?
Yes, it is. In fact, we have partnered with DirectTV Panamerica to be our promotion partner in Latin America.
WHEN DID YOU LAUNCH?
We launched the competition in Newport Beach California on May 20th, 2014.
HOW WAS THE LAUNCH RECEIVED?
It was received amazingly well. We received great press coverage and received over 1 million viewers through social media.
Thanks Andrea and Jane for a great interview!