LabCandy: Making Science Accessible to Young Girls
If I have one hope for the future, it is to see an equal representation of men and women in science industries across the world. I wish that in the near future, science industries will see women at the helm of innovations and breakthroughs alongside men, and be radically different from the male-dominated bastions that they are today. But I know that for this sea change to take place, girls’ interest in science must be cultivated from a young age, and deeply ingrained cultural stereotypes about men and women in science must be uprooted.
This past week, I was fortunate to interview Olivia Pavco-Giaccia, the Founder of LabCandy a social enterprise venture that hopes to foster girls’ early interest in science and dispel false notions that men are the mainstays of science industries. Olivia, a rising junior at Yale University, says that LabCandy aims to fulfill this mission by showing girls that “the field has room for girls like them.”
Olivia cites the “persistent stereotype that scientists are nerdy, old guys” as one reason why girls are often deterred from careers in science. “LabCandy attacks this stereotype directly, allowing girls to change what they think a scientist is supposed to look like.” To achieve this, LabCandy makes available to girls “brightly colored lab coats, fun goggles, and engaging science adventure story books,” encouraging girls to “picture herself as the scientist that she can grow up to be.”
In addition to colorful and accessible lab coats and goggles, LabCandy boasts a series of story books that feature riveting and true-to-life characters. Understanding that the presence of women role models in science is crucial to closing the gender gap in science industries, Olivia notes that these characters were created to be “relatable, spunky role models who will help young girls realize the world of science offers them opportunities for creating, collaborating and solving real-world problems.” She hopes that young girls will be able to feel a sense of connection with these characters, and hone investigative skills.
So far, the team at LabCandy has liaised with hundreds of girls, parents, grandparents, teachers and scientists in the US to “bring LabCandy to life” and have its enlightening mission to come to fruition. Reflecting on her conversations with the girls, Olivia revels in seeing and hearing “the excited reactions of young girls when they put on our colorful labcoats, decorate up a pair of their own lab goggles, read our storybook and then try out [Lab Candy’s] experiments.”
When asked how youth can get involved with LabCandy, Olivia encourages everyone to get in touch with LabCandy and contact LabCandy team members through its interactive website. In addition, she wishes to see people spreading the word about LabCandy on social media. A creative way to harness social media to make science accessible to girls is to create a personal photo edit on what you perceive a scientist looks like. “Hashtag it with #labcandy and share it on Twitter!” Olivia urges.
Ultimately, LabCandy works to address the dearth of females in science industries. “In the short term, encouraging young girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics promotes self-confidence, creativity, and critical thinking skills. In the long term, it opens up new job opportunities,” Olivia emphasizes. Indeed, getting more women involved in science will narrow the wage gap, empower the next generation of problem-solvers and innovators, and safeguard a brighter future for all.