Ladies First highlights women and girls who are making the world better for the rest of us.
As the fight for workplace gender equality continues to move full steam ahead and garner ever-growing support, there’s one sector that’s been seemingly slow to change: the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) space.
Currently, women hold less than 25 percent of all STEM jobs in the United States, which is where the latest project from YouTube darlings The Merrell Twins comes in. The 21-year-old internet sensations (and real-life twins) have garnered over 3 million subscribers with their humor-filled videos and now, they’re harnessing that popularity to inspire young girls around the country to pursue careers they may not have previously considered. And, in doing so, Veronica and Vanessa Merrell are stepping way outside their comfort zone.
The sisters teamed up with Google and Wayfarer Entertainment to set up shop in YouTube’s NYC headquarters, where they’ve helped create an exciting female-only hackerspace for a six-episode web series, Project Upgrade. Among other things, the show saw them develop, design, code, and build a touchscreen digital mirror from scratch. Their goal: to prove that, with devotion (and the right mentors), you really can do anything you set your mind to.
“We wanted to show girls that anyone can jump in and learn how to code, design, and build products,” the sisters tell us via email. “We loved the idea and really wanted to be a part of it, particularly since we believe in using our platform to empower young girls to be whoever they want to be.”
Although they admit to having initially felt “nervous and intimidated [because] neither one of us had ever coded or built or engineered anything,” they had plenty of help from a diverse team of female coders, builders, and engineers who put their minds at ease.
That impressive team included former SpaceX Director of Recruiting Dolly Singh who, “after clocking over four miles per day across the SpaceX in heels for five years straight,” launched her own line of comfortable stilettos, Thesis Couture, and Kim Swennen, an actress-turned-backend software engineer at YouTube.
“All the women involved with the project made us feel so comfortable and they were very encouraging along the way,” the Merrells gush.
Speaking of the inspiration behind Project Upgrade, which went as far as to ensure that even the behind-the-scenes production crew was 95 percent female, the sisters explain it’s all about changing the status quo.
“It’s very shocking when you see the statistics on the small percentage of women have STEM jobs and we would love to be a part of changing that statistic and making it a much higher number,” they reveal.
In order to make that happen, the Merrells believe that it’s important for young girls to know that they have professional mentors to look up to. What’s more, they want to see girls supporting other girls who are interested in STEM, and not putting them down or bullying them for their interests.
To that point, the Merrell Twins have the following advice for young girls with dreams of becoming an engineer, scientist, mathematician, or working in tech: “Find people who will encourage you and direct you in the right path. Don’t be afraid to get involved in projects at school, like robotics or a science fair. [B]e brave and never be afraid to pursue your dreams!”
Are you surprised by these statistics? Tweet us @BritandCo.
(Photos via Wayfarer Entertainment)