New Subscription Service for Emerging “Steminists”
Kina McAllister wanted to experiment. She wanted to be challenged, to get her hands dirty, to play with the toys beyond the pink aisle. She was a budding scientist, eager to do more than the usual toy experiments designed for girls, like making soap or makeup. She wanted girls to have what the boys had: projects and toys that sparked an interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and propelled kids to pursue a career in those fields.
So she set out on an experiment of her own: She launched a Kickstarter campaign to see how much money she could raise for a subscription science kit for girls. And the experiment proved a success.
The idea for StemBox came to McAllister in the summer of 2015. A biologist by trade, she encountered firsthand the barriers limiting women’s presence in STEM fields. She felt marginalized, first as a young girl with limited access to experiments focusing on hard science and later in college when she observed a lack of women in research labs. In spite of the obstacles, her passion for science and interest in helping others led her to research gene therapy for HIV at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
It was while at the lab that McAllister came up with the idea for StemBox. Once a month, the boxes provide practical science experiments that aim to spark girls’ interest in STEM fields.
“I thought if you could make girls so excited, almost in a Pavlovian way, then you could instill this knee-jerk reaction that wouldn’t leave them easily,” said McAllister about her intention with the boxes. With society sending subliminal and harmful messages to girls that science isn’t for them, McAllister wanted to create something that told girls otherwise.
And others wanted to help her do that, too. In just two weeks, her Kickstarter campaign reached its funding goal and finished with more than 400 backers pledging a total of $22,943. Since then, she has transitioned from working in the lab to working on StemBox full time.
Now in its first month of service, StemBox will mail more than 700 boxes to aspiring “steminists,” as McAllister calls them. Though some wondered how she could come up with a different experiment for each month, she is not short on ideas. Some, she says, are personal and emotional, like February’s owl pellet box, an experiment she remembers performing as a young student. Others are inspired by her own insecurities, like in aviation and engineering.
With those subjects, “I was taught only boys were good at it,” she says. So in designing the upcoming April aviation box, she hopes to “rein [in] insecurity and prevent girls from feeling how I felt … they don’t need a boy to help them [build].”
Although she left a STEM career to transition to being an entrepreneur and businesswoman, McAllister is committed to helping girls unleash their natural science potential.
“I can help research a lot more by increasing different ways of thinking,” she says. “Getting more girls who can bring new ideas” is key to supporting women in STEM — and the field will be better for that diversity.
Help girls unleash their #NaturalPotential in STEM. In an AAUW collaboration with Green Works, a portion of proceeds from each subscription during the month of March will be donated to AAUW.Sign up for StemBox today!
To help you find gifts that defy stereotypes, inspire creativity, and promote self-confidence in the girls in your life, we have created a holiday guide to navigating the evolving toy aisles.
Parents, teachers, relatives, and advocates for girls: You can make a difference. Will you take the pledge with AAUW to let the girls in your life tinker?
Marketing aimed at recruiting girls into STEM tends to fall into one of two distinct categories: Let’s call them geek pride and sparkle science.