How to empower girls to reach for the stars

An American Girl doll based on female NASA scientists engages children around STEM learning

In our cyber-focused world, careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are increasingly in demand and highly lucrative. But there’s a missing piece in those growing fields—women.

Despite making up almost half of the workforce, women hold just 24 percent of STEM jobs in the United States. And the latest research on girls and their early career aspirations serves as a veritable trail of breadcrumbs leading up to this adult reality: Most don’t imagine themselves in STEM roles when they are young, and they have different notions of achievement than boys of the same age.

Inspired by this data, American Girl, which has sold over 32 million dolls since 1986, is on a mission to inspire girls and bring visibility to women in STEM through the company’s 2018 Girl of the Year, Luciana Vega.

An aspiring astronaut with a serious science streak, Luciana is a creative, confident 11-year-old who dreams of being the first person to go to Mars. While she has the skills and the smarts to achieve her goals, she also learns lessons about teamwork and good leadership that are valuable for girls, no matter what career they choose to pursue.

Luciana’s story is as much about STEM—exposing young girls to these exciting fields and piquing their interest in an engaging way—as it is about character. The idea is that through Luciana’s adventures, girls will see that that they have infinite potential to be exactly who they want to be.

“Luciana is a role model for today’s girls—empowering them to defy stereotypes and embrace risks that will teach them about failure and success as they chart their own course in life—whatever the goal,” says Katy Dickson, President of American Girl. “For us, it’s all about building girls of strong character, and it’s why we’re continuing to encourage girls to lead change and embrace #charactercounts.”

Luciana is a role model for today’s girls—empowering them to defy stereotypes and embrace risks that will teach them about failure and success as they chart their own course in life

Luciana’s world comes to life in a series of Scholastic-published chapter books. The first two books, written by Erin Teagan, are available now, and follow Luciana after she wins a scholarship to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. While Luciana is thrilled to launch her dreams as an aspiring astronaut, once she zips up her flight suit, she quickly learns that Space Camp is more than just fun and games. Luciana faces challenges that test her competitive spirit and self-confidence, and she must find the courage to embrace the unknown.

American Girl worked with NASA scientists and astronauts to ensure the accuracy of Luciana’s story. A team of American Girl editors even visited Space Camp to see what the experience would have been like for Luciana, including putting on space suits and conducting a mission in micro-gravity. American Girl’s partnership with NASA was developed through the Space Act Agreement to inform and inspire the wider public, especially young girls, about the excitement of space and STEM careers.

“We wanted to make sure we were getting it right, but we also wanted to bring attention to the fact that there are some really amazing women in this field,” said Julie Parks, Director of Public Relations, at American Girl during a recent CNN interview. “This is something that could happen for you. It’s no secret that females are underrepresented in this area. We need strong innovators and a wide range of thinkers.”

Through Luciana, American Girl hopes to encourage young girls to realize that they can achieve anything they set their sights on, in STEM careers and beyond.

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