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August 17, 2017

Can tech heroes become the new princesses?

By Mara Lecocq

Let’s be honest. There’s something about princesses that even the most cynical feminist finds appealing.

Do you remember that tingling sensation when Princess Jasmine, as castle guards were bullying Aladdin, slid her cloak off her face, raised an eyebrow and exclaimed: “By order of The Princess!”

And the guards bowed down in respect…

What’s appealing about princesses is their power.

As a child, I was convinced, “I WANNA BE A PRINCESS!”

But what if we imagined our daughters twirling in their bedrooms with stars in their eyes saying, “I WANNA BE AN ENGINEER!”

So what do the fabulous powers of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) have to learn from princesses?

Princesses are fun. They’re cool. They’re powerful. And more importantly, they’re human.

Role models — or lack thereof — impact aspirations. Studies show that stereotypes sink in between ages 5 and 7 and that children begin associating jobs to genders at that age, unconsciously steering them away from hobbies and interests that can later turn into fulfilling careers.

As a female leader in the digital industry, I wanted to address the problem of diversity in technology and leadership that I was facing first-hand. And women don’t magically become tech leaders after reading a Forbes article when they’re 30. It has to start young.

So, I rallied ex-advertising co-workers to create an innovative children’s book, Secret Code. It is a personalized children’s book that stars your girl as a tech hero.

The way Secret Code works is that you personalize the name, skin color and hairstyle of the main character online, so it looks like the girl you want to inspire, and you receive a customized children’s book delivered to your home.

The goal is to make technology fun and relatable for girls. And to inspire all girls — of all ethnicities — to see themselves as powerful problem-solvers and leaders; values that are ubiquitous to any fulfilling future.

Can we build a future where the tech industry is a reflection of the world’s diversity of gender and race?

I want to see a powerful industry that will solve world problems from all missing perspectives. That future is happening right now: with the role models we give our youth.

Let’s remember what it’s like to be young. You just want to have fun. You just want to be cool.

Let’s make technology fun and cool.

Let’s make girls see what they can be.

Do you know of other innovative approaches to inspire and support women and girls in tech? Nominate them for the ITU and UN Women EQUALS in Tech Awards, open until September 15, 2017.

Mara Lecocq
Mara Lecocq is the creative director of Secret Code, a personalized children’s book that stars YOUR girl as a tech hero, and founder of Radseed, a next-generation media company that provides personalized stories that impact aspirations in children’s formative years.
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