“I graduated in 1978, and there was only one girl in the class,” recalls Larian, who studied civil engineering at California State University, Los Angeles. “And frankly, she was the smartest.”
Larian is now the billionaire CEO of MGA Entertainment, the world’s largest toy company. He’s also the brains behind Bratz, the uber-successful fashion doll line that has sold more than $US2 billion worldwide. At 61, he knows more about dolls than most 5-year-old girls.
Now he’s putting his collegiate epiphany to use.
Today, Larian is launching new line of dolls called Project MC2, which MGA hopes will shake up the toy industry with its focus on science, technology, engineering, and maths — a set of disciplines collectively known as STEM. They will join GoldieBlox and LEGO’s latest STEM minifigs in a burgeoning push to get girls excited about scientific experimentation.
Girls are a third less likely to take interest in pursuing a STEM career than boys, and with the exception of marine and social sciences, males end up outnumbering females in each of the technical and scientific fields.
But maybe McKeyla, Adrienne, Camryn, and Bryden can help get girls inspired early on.
Each of the four dolls comes with her own kit for easy, at-home scientific discovery.
McKeyla McAlister helps kids create their own lava lamp using ingredients found in the kitchen. Adrienne Attoms comes with instructions for a baking soda-and-vinegar volcano. Camryn Colye helps you engineer a skateboard using household objects. And Bryden Bandwedth, completing the alliterative foursome, offers a hand in making a homemade glowstick necklace.
“It’s really cool to be smart,” Larian says. “I mean, smart is the new cool right now in today’s age.”
Mattel has also recently come out with STEM-themed Barbies, including a Computer Engineer Barbie. But not everyone is convinced that girly dolls are the best way to get girls interested in science. "This meme seems concerned with whether girls feel like they will fit in (or want to fit in) with typical mathematicians and scientists," writes Diana Betz over at Scientific American.
Nonetheless, the trend is gaining steam. In collaboration with AwesomenessTV and DreamworksTV, the four Project MC2 girls are also making their way to Netflix and YouTube.
On Netflix, the girls will appear in a three-episode live-action series with Danica McKellar, the former "Wonder Years" star and vocal advocate for getting girls into math. The show launches in in tandem with the dolls, which will be available at a number of big box stores.
Larian says his goal for the doll line is to get girls excited about subjects they're normally nudged away from.
"I hope girls get inspired," he says, "to take science classes, take math classes, pursue careers down the road that break down the taboo that only engineers are boys, or mathematicians are boys, or chemists are boys."
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