Women @ Work

CEO explains why 8 is such a critical age in the lives of little girls

Ayah Bdeir of littleBits says that up until the age of 8, girls are interested in science and math — and then something happens

In episode three of Women @ Work, Tina Brown talks with Ayah Bdeir, the founder and CEO of littleBits, a company that makes electronic building blocks that teach kids the principles of engineering. Bdeir opens up about some of the challenges she faced raising more than $60 million in venture capital to get littleBits off the ground in 2011, and how she’s challenged herself and learned on the job how to become a CEO. She also talks about how the age of 8 is such a critical point in the development of little girls.

“By the age of 8, about 50 percent of girls lose interest in STEM,” she says. “And they are interested before that.” Bdeir adds that the reason for such a drop-off in interest after age 8 has more to do with nurture than nature. “It’s a combination of social pressures and stereotypes that girls have to prioritize being beautiful or being outgoing, or being sociable,” she says. Bdeir goes on to talk about her own upbringing and how her parents urged her to follow her interest in science and math. “I grew up in Beirut with three sisters … and my parents were always very, very supportive of us being in the sciences. My mom’s always been a career woman. She’s been an inspiration for my sisters and me. And my dad always used to get us chemistry sets and electricity kits and really encouraged us to play with what was traditionally known as ‘boy toys.'” To that end, Bdeir says she has a firm policy that littleBits are designed to be gender-neutral and appeal to boys and girls alike.

Watch the full interview above.

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