“I’m watching the greatest YouTube series in…ever. This girl – she’s our age – got to meet the CEO of an ice-cream company AND a scientist making burgers of the future and then PICKED ONE to be her life-long mentor! It’s called #FastForwardGirls and you HAVE to see it.”
Words that will be spoken by every girl tuning in to the brand new series launched last week by GoldieBlox and Lyda Hill Philanthropies’ IF/THEN initiative – a series that may well redefine STEM mentorship for girls.
Tell us more.
It’s the coolest. Each episode features an aspiring young innovator and two female role models in different STEM fields – think conservationists using drones to prevent poaching, slime scientists, tech experts and more. There are challenges (how many ice-cream sandwiches can you stack in a structurally stable tower? Can you tell the difference between meat and plant-based burgers?), lab tours, Q&As and the final selection of a STEM mentor for life. Oh, and spotlight visits with girls we know from YouTube…hey there, Karina Garcia, Shameless Maya, Little Froggy and Hayley & Annie LeBlanc!
We’re freaking out.
We are too. Once we saw the trailer, we had to know more. So Être jumped on the phone with GoldieBlox founder and STEM guru Debbie Sterling, to ask her how Fast Forward Girls got started and what’s next for this awesome series.
Ê: We have to say right off the bat – we LOVE this show! How did the idea for it first come about?
DS: It’s funny, I think this show was years in the making. I met Nicole Small, CEO of Lyda Hill Philanthropies, about five years ago and we conceptualized the show together. The if she can see it, she can be it message behind their IF/THEN initiative really resonated with me, and the statistics regarding what kinds of STEM role models girls see in media were staggering!
Ê: We heard Geena Davis speak about this once – data showing how the majority of STEM roles in media are still men…
DS: Exactly! A report from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media said that, of all the film and TV portrayals of people in STEM, 63 percent of them were men and 71 percent were white. More than that, many of the characters (43 percent) were shown to be unhappy with their work-life balance in STEM. I hate the idea that this might discourage girls from entering those fields. I want this series to show girls that there are lots of female role models in STEM and that they’re happy with their jobs!
Ê: It means a lot to us that the show lets each girl pick her own STEM mentor at such an early age. Why was that so important to you and who were some of your earliest mentors?
DS: Mentors were crucial to my career – I might have missed my entire STEM career if I hadn’t had certain people in my life. For example, in my senior year in high school I had a math teacher named Mary Viruleg who told me that I should consider engineering. I didn’t even know what that was! If it hadn’t been for her I might never have majored in engineering at Stanford.
Then once I got to college, a professor named David Kelley (founder of the design firm IDEO) really clarified my goals. I knew I was creative and was looking for a path where I could make an impact on the world. The way David blended art, engineering and psychology in his work really inspired me, and his mentorship showed me how to blend my own interests in engineering and design in unexpected ways.
The point, though, is that I almost missed my future.
Role models, specifically female role models, in media are so badly needed – and this is why. Before high school I would have pictured an engineer as some nerdy guy with no friends. If I had known that I could love math, study engineering and wind up as the CEO of a toy company and now a media organization, I would have been even better prepared for my classes in college and the opportunities that came after. My world would have changed sooner.
Ê: We totally get it. And it seems like the mentors on the show can be role models to girls watching the show too! We learned so much about ice-cream architecture and culinary science in the very first episode! How did you know what girls would want to see?
DS: We did tons of research and really strove for authenticity. We sought feedback from our Girl Scout Council and we talked to teens and influencers in the YouTube space. It’s probably the thing I’m most proud of and I think it makes the series really groundbreaking. Plus, the jobs we’re highlighting in STEM are some of the coolest jobs around and they’re being done by women girls can relate to. Not people up on pedestals. Real role models in real life.
Ê: We’re ridiculously excited. In addition to tuning in, are there other ways that girls can get involved with Fast Forward Girls at this early stage?
Ê: We’re so on it, and we can’t WAIT to watch this week! Last question: what do you want girls to be thinking about while they’re watching this show?
DS: Great question. I want girls to be open-minded about what might lie ahead.
I want them to discover passions they didn’t know existed, be wide open to what’s waiting for them, and then to just go for it.
We loved talking to her. From Debbie’s first conversations years ago with Nicole Small to the game-changing partnership with the Lyda Hill Philanthropies’ IF/THEN initiative that developed, the idea of a show about early STEM mentorship is music to our ears. And essential for our futures. In Nicole Small’s own words,
“IF/THEN is designed to activate a culture shift among young girls and open their eyes to STEM careers. Inspiring girls with better portrayals of women in STEM through media like Fast Forward Girls is core to IF/THEN’s strategy to meet girls where they are consuming content – in this case on YouTube – to help pique their interest in STEM careers.”
We couldn’t say it any better and we couldn’t need this show more. Consider our interest piqued. Girls everywhere – get ready to tune in and fast-forward your own goals in STEM. Your future is waiting.
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Être is a mentorship platform for motivated middle school girls and is grateful to GoldieBlox and Lyda Hill Philanthropies for inspiring tomorrow’s STEM innovators through #FastForwardGirls – and for understanding that mentors matter as early as middle school.