CBS graduate targets STEM gender gap with science kits for girls
Marcie Colledge, PhD, is the co-founder of Yellow Scope, a company that creates engaging and creative science kits for girls. Based in Portland, Oregon, their mission is to help close the gender gap in the STEM fields by helping to provide opportunities for curious young girls to experiment with real science. Marcie graduated from the human kinetics program at the University of Guelph in 1991.
What led you to create Yellow Scope ?
I was in academic science for many years and, after I finished my post-doc, I landed my dream job. However, life eventually changed, and I left my professorship at the University of Texas to move my family to Portland. I took a break to raise and spend time with my daughters, but knew I wanted to continue my involvement in science education in some capacity. A few years later, at my eldest daughter’s school science fair, I met my future business partner Kelly McCollum. She was also a research scientist and we had a lot in common. Together, we started an extracurricular science program at our daughters’ school, which lasted seven years and was a huge success. But as our girls grew up, we had more free time, and we wanted to get back into the workforce. We did research into the gender gap in STEM and tried to conceive of a way for us to help narrow it. What about creating science kits for young girls? When we looked at what was already out there, we were shocked. We did an Internet search for science kits for girls, and the results were essentially sparkly, pink beauty products. We knew this had to change.
Why are your science kits specifically created for girls?
Gendered toys are everywhere, and it has only gotten worse. Back in the 70s and 80s, this didn’t really exist. Fast forward to now and it’s pink building blocks for girls while boys can build planes and vehicles. It’s tricky for us, because our product is gendered too, as we are trying to help swing the STEM pendulum the other way. We feel that achieving our goal can’t be done with a gender-neutral science kit; it needs to be specifically for girls. However, there is nothing gendered about the science in the kits because science itself is not gendered. Our research showed us that girls’ confidence peaks right before middle school, and then drops dramatically. If we catch girls around 8-12 years old and present them with the science that’s real and rigorous (and fun!), while they are confident, it may stick with them for high school and post-secondary education. We also get a lot of messages from parents about their sons loving the kits!
If you could give a graduating student advice, what would it be?
Be patient. A solid education is a fantastic foundation. Keep an open mind. It may sound sort of trite but find what you love. What sparks excitement for you? Marry that to a business plan. Bring joy to your skillset. And, of course, always be reassessing. I started Yellow Scope at 45! Find yourself a partner in crime; it brings a different perspective to the table. That way, when you’re faced with a problem, you can bounce ideas off each other and share and talk things through. You will almost always come up with a better solution together.
Want to learn more? Check out Yellow Scope's website.