Toy company GoldieBlox is working to reimagine how toys portray gender to children in an effort to steer more girls toward science and technology education.
GoldieBlox originally offered one doll, who was remarkable for being a girl that helped teach kids tech and engineering skills, but they offered only a blonde white girl. Three years later, the company has released Ruby Rails, a black action figure that brings her computer in her backpack so she can code on the go.
Samantha Cowan of TakePart quoted Debbie Sterling, who founded the Kickstarter project that became the GoldieBlox company. She said:
It’s really important to me to show diversity in the GoldieBlox characters because I want every kid to be able to look at GoldieBlox and see themselves.
Ruby was featured in a stop-motion ad that showed her and Goldie as action heroes, interspersed with statistics about the lack of women as protagonists in Hollywood movies, reports Daniel Pickett of Action Figure Insider. This was not Ruby’s film debut, however; she and another friend, Valentina Voltz, both appeared in advertising videos for GoldieBlox. In this short feature she was the star rather than a sidekick.
As Nick Romano of Collider notes, it was only this year that the first black woman, Viola Davis, won an Emmy for Leading Actress in a Drama Series, proving that the representation of women of color in popular media is still a relevant issue.
Nell Minow of BeliefNet quoted a statement from GoldieBlox:
We’re not here to produce the next blockbuster; we’re here to provide a role model in play. When the girls in your life pick up Ruby Rails, we want them to know that they can be a high-flying, fashion-loving programming extraordinaire too. We want them to feel like they can be a boxer, a secret agent, a dinosaur wrangler, or a fighter pilot.
The doll’s name comes from the programming language Ruby on Rails. Like an action figure, she has movable joints, along with hands that can grip. Kids can build a working parachute for her, just as the original GoldieBlox action figure came with a zipline.
The GoldieBlox company was created to even the playing field for boys and girls in an increasingly tech-focused world. Many argue that encouraging boys to engage in play that helps with logical and spatial skills encourages them to pursue lucrative STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers, leaving girls to fall by the wayside — and especially girls of color. GoldieBlox and Ruby Rails serve as role models to teach valuable skills.
Other toys from the GoldieBlox company include a kit to make a float for GoldieBlox and Ruby, picture books, sets to build multiple open-ended projects for the dolls, and clothing for girls.
Debbie Sterling graduated from Stanford with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and Product Design. She created GoldieBlox after being distressed by the lack of women in both her program and her field.