Ep. #1067 - Women in STEM: Bridging the Gender Gap
In this episode of Startup Hustle, Lauren Conaway and Eliza Kosoy, Founder and CEO of E-liza Dolls, talk about bridging the gender gap in STEM (an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.) Girls and women are systematically tracked away from science and math throughout their education, limiting their access, preparation, and opportunities to pursue careers in these fields later in life. Enjoy an insightful discussion about the discrepancies in female representations in various STEM fields and how we might better bridge this gender gap.
Covered In This Episode
Despite decades of progress and efforts to close the gender gap, women still face significant barriers to entry, retention, and advancement in STEM careers. Women face numerous barriers to entry and progression, including gender biases and a lack of role models.
Fortunately, some experts and advocates are working to level the playing field and empower women in STEM. One of these experts is Eliza Kosoy and her startup E-liza Dolls. For instance, Eliza aims to use the Dolls to teach young girls to code and build hardware. As a result, she hopes that through these Dolls, young girls will gain more interest in the STEM field.
Join Lauren Conaway and Eliza Kosoy as they discuss women in STEM and the barriers that women face in the field. And further, how E-liza Dolls can help young girls gain interest in the industry.
Listen to this Startup Hustle episode now.
- Why is there a lack of diversity in the stem industry? (1:01)
- Getting more girls interested in STEM early on. (5:49)
- Gathering the feedback from the children (10:09)
- Feedback from the parents (13:46)
- What is equity? (17:12)
- Eliza’s processes when developing the dolls (20:36)
- The importance of having a positive coding experience early on (22:20)
- The importance of representation (24:37)
- Eliza’s mentors (26:36)
- Poet Rupi Kaur and E-liza Dolls? (28:21)
- Why is gender diversity in STEM important? (29:56)
- The future of E-liza Dolls (32:26)
- What’s going to take to get society to where you want it to go? (34:49)
- How can parents support their children’s love for STEM? (36:58)
- The greatest life lesson Eliza learned from her parents (38:15)
- Wrapping up (38:58)
So basically, what Eliza Dolls are doing is saying cool girls like dolls. We know this. It’s cool. It’s okay. They play differently than boys. So, let’s embrace the creativity that comes with dolls and pretend play and roleplay how little girls play. And let’s basically sneakily incorporate hardware and software into that play pattern and make something that girls will want to play with and parents will want to buy their daughters.Eliza Kosoy
It becomes exponential growth. Because for each person that you see, you know, each woman that you see running a lab, you’re going to see three people coming up behind her and saying, I was inspired by that individual, and they mentored me, and they championed me, and they showed me that it could be done.Laura Conaway
I believe in that I believe in exclusivity and inclusivity. At the same time, like sometimes I think that it’s really important to have safe spaces where you can go somewhere, and you know, that someone like I can look at you, Eliza, and I can say, she’s a woman. And we have very different experiences. And we do very different things. But there are pieces of our journey that are similar. And I can just look at you and know that I don’t even have to ask you about your experiences because I know that you’re a woman, right? Consequently, there’s comfort in that knowing that someone has been where you are and that you have the opportunity to be mentored by them, to ask questions to, and to talk to them.Laura Conaway
If you have diversity in that room, and different perspectives and opinions, then that’s how the world’s issues really get solved. And, that’s the best way to use, I think, the world’s resources of money and brainpower to solve problems is to bring in people from all different perspectives and cultures, and that’s how you solve problems. That’s why I really think that diversity matters, especially having more women and more people of color in these rooms because that’s how we get different opinions. As a result, that’s how the problems really get solved.Eliza Kosoy
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Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
Lauren Conaway 0:00
And we are back. Thank you for joining us for yet another episode of the Startup Hustle podcast. I’m your host Lauren Conaway, founder and CEO of InnovateHer KC. And today’s episode of Startup Hustle is powered by FullScale.io. Hiring software developers can be difficult, but Full Scale can help you build a software team quickly and affordably. And they have the platform to help you manage that team. Visit FullScale.io to learn more. All right, friends, we are going to be talking today about a topic that is near and dear to my heart. You’ve heard me talk about stemming lists before on the show, and we’re going to be talking about a leader in the space. We’re gonna be talking about gender and science and how to get young girls more involved and things like voting and science and math and all of those beautiful things that contribute to our world so nicely. We have with us today Eliza Kosoy, the founder and CEO of Eliza Dolls. Welcome to the show, Eliza. We are so glad to have you.
Eliza Kosoy 1:01
Thank you. I’m super excited to be here.
Lauren Conaway 1:03
Well, I’m very glad and gratified to hear that. And to that end. Let’s go ahead and get right into it. Let me ask you tell us about your journey.
Eliza Kosoy 1:13
Sure, yeah. So my journey starts. In New York, in Brooklyn, where I was born, my parents had just freshly immigrated from Ukraine, they came to America on April Fool’s Day, which I feel like sets the tone for our life. But um, fast forward a couple years, as a little kid, as a little girl, I was very obsessed with dolls, what a shocker. And building very elaborate doll houses out of cardboard, I used to like eat all this yogurt so that I could have stools for them. And anyway, just was a huge part of my childhood. I think that’s kind of where the journey starts, for sure. This obsession with dolls and building. And then in college, I was a math major, a big part of growing up to in my family, with my parents being from the Soviet Union was their obsession with math. I always say like people from Russia, math is their first language and then Russian. So we were we had to do math every single day, my dad would write us all these worksheets, and we couldn’t play until we did our worksheets. And then, of course, I hated math, by the time I got to college, and then then it’s all that made sense to me. And I really fell in love with it again. And that was a part of my journey back into STEM, I would say. And so that’s kind of where I first realized that there was this lack of diversity in STEM, it was seemed very male dominated to me. And then after graduation, I started working in a lab at MIT, where I noticed this even more intensely the gender disbalance was just, it was really something that was difficult for me. And that’s kind of where this all started. And so yeah, that’s kind of my journey to creating.
Lauren Conaway 2:56
Yeah. That’s quite a journey, for sure. And I want to, I definitely want to delve into Eliza Dolls and in what you do tactically, but I’m gonna start us kind of at the the big picture. And I want to ask you, you said, as you were coming up, he noticed that there was this very wide gender discrepancy. And so my, my question is, why do you think that is, and I’m gonna leave you a little bit in telling you that I understand that there are many, many different factors that contribute to the the kind of systemic problems that women face in STEM fields, but I want to hear it from you. So talk to us about some of the contributing factors to that discrepancy.
Eliza Kosoy 3:40
Yeah, I think that’s a really good question and a difficult question to answer. But what I have found, anecdotally, and doing some stem outreach with children is I think the problem really stems from childhood, I think, the things you play with, as a kid really stimulate your interest later on. And there’s seems to be this huge hole in the market for there’s just not as many stem toys for girls versus boys. And I really think that could be a huge contributor to what’s happening. I think that so a little more backstory, as I’m a PhD student at Berkeley, where I’m finishing my PhD in child development as it intersects with artificial intelligence. So I’ve done a lot of work with children and thinking about what I’ve seen, you know, obviously childhood as a huge impact on your life. But the things that you play with them get curious about are so important. And, you know, if you show a kid, a doll, or you show a kid a train with, you know, hardware inside of it, and connectors and things, you know, that’s going to lead them down one way versus a doll might lead them down another way of thinking and getting curious about things. So I think that’s, you know, why parents are so invested in exposing their, their children to these concepts early on, but I think partly what might be happening is that we’re just not showing girls, the right toys or the right, engineering marvels, they would be interested in it. And that could be a reason. And I think, later on when you’re in college, I think it just gets worse and worse, like, if there’s less girls in your class in high school, then you’re less likely to join that class. And then in the statistics, the worse, the higher the degree gets. And from my, you know, from my experience, it was just difficult being in spaces that are very male dominated. And even though I’m interested in the subject, just being in that space is so stressful that I’m like, is this worth it, so that it changes as you age. But I think that it’s really important in childhood, that we’re providing the right tools that will actually engage both genders in STEM topics.
Lauren Conaway 5:49
Yeah, well, and I love that you’re talking about the beginning of that journey, because what’s really interesting to me, is when we talk about the the lack of women in STEM, I try to think about things from the 10,000 foot view, and in what’s really interesting is like he has in everyone’s life at every point, there are always points along the journey where you make a choice, or something happens to you, and it changes the trajectory of the rest of what you’re doing. And so, you know, to your point, if we can get more girls interested in STEM early on through play, that’s one of those hurdles. And then you know, as they grow older, all right, we’ll have we’ll have a larger pipeline of girls who are interested in STEM, who can then go into those STEM classes in the math classes that they might have otherwise avoided, because they didn’t have that foundational knowledge. And then as they get older, as we see more and more women in the pipeline, joining STEM fields and studying STEM STEM subjects, as we see more and more of that happen, you have this kind of trickle up effect, where you see working environments become more inclusive and more concerned with gender equity, and you see more leadership, Representative leadership of women within these fields. And so it’s really interesting by kind of going back to the one of the roots of the issue, and addressing that, and it sounds like that’s what you’re doing with Eli as adults. Can you talk to us a little bit about, you know, the products and how you’re doing that?
Eliza Kosoy 7:22
Totally? Yes, so E-Liza Dolls, it’s a 18 inch-doll, which is the size of an American Girl doll, if you’re from it’s like a bigger doll, hardware inside of it. And the whole goal is to expose girls starting at age five, early on to concepts of hardware and software through something that they actually want to play with. And yeah, this was born out of me, I do a lot of STEM, my mother’s in librarian, so I’ve got access to libraries. And so I
Lauren Conaway 7:51
cannot beat librarians for finding information like i They are the unsung heroes of our society, I swear.
Eliza Kosoy 7:59
Yeah. And I think that where we live now, which is upstate New York, for suburban culture, libraries are such a draw for the community. And so I was doing a lot of because of my frustration, in, you know, I was seeing how all these labs are so male dominated, and I was like, quit starts in childhood, I’m going to try to fix this. I started doing all these outreach, you know, learn to learn STEM topics at the library events. And so I would use current products on the market. And then that’s where I first saw, I’m like, well, the girls don’t want to play with this stuff. I mean, it’s all blue. It’s robots. It’s race cars. It’s not their fault. They don’t want to play with it. It’s just not. It’s kind of like not interesting to them. It’s not what they grew up playing. We know that girls and boys have different play patterns. So basically, what Eliza dolls is doing is saying like cool girls like dolls. We know this. It’s cool. It’s okay. They we play differently than boys. Let’s embrace the creativity that comes with dolls and pretend play and roleplay how little girls play. And let’s basically sneakily incorporate hardware and software into that play pattern and make something that girls will want to play with and parents will want to buy their daughters. And the way that the dolls work is there’s kind of like the little computer inside called an Arduino. Yeah, it’s basically like a little computer that you can code you call an app, the code goes over Bluetooth, and you plug in different sensors, and there’s lights and music. And just to give you an example. So if I plug in the color sensor, then I can build this project where the dog will match my outfit every day. Whether you hold up any color to the color sensor. So let’s say like my daughter’s wearing a purple outfit today, she’s gonna hold up her shirt to the color sensor. The color sensors can detect the purple, and then the lights which are like in her jewelry on the doll will all light up that color, and the doll will match her. So basically every project and it’s different for different ages, but it incorporates like hardware software components, but it’s fun and it’s girly, and it’s playful, and it’s cool. So basically, that’s how it works. And yeah, we’re pretty much Launch right now. So we’re finishing the prototype right now and sourcing factories and hoping to launch on Kickstarter within a few months. But that’s the product. And that’s why I’m doing it.
Lauren Conaway 10:09
Yeah, well, I gotta tell you that I, I just felt very girly for a moment. Because you know, like, you could match your outfit. And I was like, wait, I want one. I want a doll that I can match my outfit. Like, that’s really cool. So so I’m assuming that as you were developing the product, you you sought out a lot of feedback from younger girls. So talk to us a little bit about that. What were what was some of the feedback that you were hearing as you were trying to design this very appealing product?
Eliza Kosoy 10:36
Yeah, this is a great question. So I’m very lucky at Berkeley, they, one of the options to live if you’re a student is called University Village. And it’s basically family housing. So if you’re like a couple are basically if you have children, it’s kind of housing for people with families. And so I don’t have kids, but everyone around me has kids. So I’m gonna put up posters around the village and posted on the Facebook Like about what I’m trying to do. And I know a lot of my neighbors very well. So that’s how I would collect my data, as well as testing at children’s museums in the bay through my PhD because I did some scientific work with the dollar as well. But the fact the feedback was hilarious. I mean, I get the little girls are very honest. Some of them are very, a lot of projects are shut down early on. So for picking the sensors, a lot of them were shut down. I thought this one was so cool, where it was, like, Sun detector for like, when to put on sunscreen. I was like, parents will love that. But the girls are like, No, I like that was one that they shut down so hard. And then ones like the colors. They really like they like security alarms for their room. I mean, I love little kids. So that was like the best part was getting all the feedback, but definitely was super helpful. And they were very honest. I will say and I appreciate that about them.
Lauren Conaway 11:55
Yeah, yeah, I really, I feel as though young children are probably your best source for market research. Like they’re Yeah, they’re gonna be totally honest with you. They don’t care about your feelings. This is how I feel. Well, I love that. I wanted to tell you a little story really quickly. That’s going to segue into my next question. But so one of the things that I do, and this is this might make me sound like a jerk. But you know how, like when you walk into like big stores, department stores, I don’t know, like the big, big box stores to be in and they have the clothing sections, and they typically break it up into boys clothes and girls clothes. So often, I will find science branded things on the boys side. And then you’ll go over to the girls side, and you’ll see nothing like it’ll just be like, Oh, baby, you know, baby is pretty unicorns, which is fine. Like, if you are a young girl and you love those things, more power to you, oh, hell, if you’re an old girl, and you like those things. Fantastic. But what I don’t like is not seeing the action, right seeing those options available. Because I think that to me, is what equity is all about making sure that everybody has options. And so what I’ll do is I’ll like to so with the last time I did it was NASA sort of shirts, there were like NASA T shirts. And I’ve got like three NASA T shirts. But I took some of the ones from the boys side. And I just took them over the girls that I like just snuck them in. They’re like, Hey, Mom, this is and then hey, parents, it’s totally okay to buy your, your kid, your girl child science related stuff. So that’s like my sneaky little rebellion. That’s actually it leads me into what I want to ask you, which is this? What has the feedback from the parents been like having the option to offer their kids this enrichment opportunity as well as a play opportunity?
Eliza Kosoy 13:46
Yeah, that’s a good question, too. So I think it’s kind of twofold. Some parents who have like very girly daughters, they just like immediately get it and they’re like, yes, here’s my email. Here’s my credit card. Like, I want to preorder. I get it. Yeah, then I have, it’s the Bay Area. So we do have a lot of you know, I live in the Bay Area. It’s really like technical, you know, Silicon Valley’s here, all the parents are here. And so then some of the feedback I’ll get is like, Well, why are you Why is it at all like they’re almost triggered by this? And then once I kind of explain it and show them and the kid starts playing with it, because some parents are very opposed to you know, dolls or very girly toys or exactly you’re saying that like, well, I want them to play with the boys toys because that says Nasaan it or something. But then once they see that the experience and basically trying to create a just the perfect mold of those two worlds and just kind of meeting girls where they are. I think it kind of starts to make more sense to them. Even with some of the advisors I have I think at first they were like wait, but I don’t want my daughter to be playing with dolls dolls have this almost negative stereotype associated with them currently, and I’m basically just trying to kind of blend the two worlds. What I’m trying to say is like, you know, it girls really do like unicorns and dolls and pink things. And it’s almost like we have created this negative association with that, because there’s really no wrong with unicorns and dolls and all these things that we’re considering like girly, fluffy, almost topic.
Lauren Conaway 15:16
Now, there’s this whole, like, just do it around like Chiclet or like rom coms. And people are like, Why? Like, what was my guilty pleasure? And I’m like, why? But why is it guilty? Like, pumpkin spice anytime comes around people are like, time to start making fun of basic bitches because they like pumpkin spice. Why can’t they just like pumpkin spice man?
Eliza Kosoy 15:43
Around? Yeah, and basically just trying to say like, you know, what? A, why did we make this such a negative thing, and rose are liking these things. Let’s use that to empower them instead. First seeing that, like, they like these things, let’s put the technology into that that will just enable them to have the choice to be interested in STEM when they’re older. So then when they’re in high school, and it’s like, do you wanna take this programming class? Or like, oh, yeah, I’ve been coding my doll for years, like this is, this is, this is nothing. And I just want it to be like, okay, like, I really love glitter, and all these things. And I always feel shame for these things and why you can be intelligent, and you can like, quote, unquote, girly things. And I’m basically trying to create, like, a new generation of, quote, unquote, girly, but it’s cool and quirky. And that’s what I felt, you know, at MIT, like, I really couldn’t be girly, I felt penalized for it like the girl dress, the dumber people would think I you know, if I wore a skirt, got, you know, God forbid,
Lauren Conaway 16:44
you certainly can’t be attractive and smart and feminine and smart. And you can’t
Eliza Kosoy 16:49
Yeah, and so that’s what I’m trying to basically make it okay, and bridge that gap and start it Young. Because as you know, the biases already are developing at age five for girls. So I’m just trying to kind of Curb it and show that it’s cool to be who you are, what you’re interested in, but also be smart. And here’s how you can pursue these topics, if you’re interested in them later on. Yeah, yeah.
Lauren Conaway 17:12
Well, so So want to bring up like, I’ve always found this to be an interesting analogy, and I’m gonna kind of stumble my way through it, I’m sure. But when we talk about issues of equity. So for me, equity is not giving everybody exactly the same thing. Because if you do that, you see the discrepancies that already in the inequities that already exist widen. And so the the analogy that I can use is, you know, there’s this graphic that periodically goes around on social media, and it shows three kids try it, and they’re trying to look over a fence to see a ball game, right? And then one, they’re like, Well, you know, if we give, say everything to everybody equally, you would still see the kids have different heights, the shorter ones would still struggle to see over the fence, because he gave them the exact same size box, and it wasn’t enough to propel them or to allow them to look over the fence. But if you give them a taller box than the kid who can already see over the fence without the box, then that is actually that’s where equity lies. When you give people the tools they need to avail themselves of equal opportunity. And so when you’re talking about why is it a doll? In my head, I’m like, you know, that’s, that’s an interesting question. I mean, first of all boys can play can also play with dolls. Anybody can play with dolls. So it’s not as though this is an exclusive product that is only designed for girl children. But that being said, all you’re doing is you are applying extra assistance and a little bit of that extra support, that girls often need to overcome obstacles, challenges and barriers that they will experience on their path to a STEM career. Right? Is that kind of how you view it?
Eliza Kosoy 19:01
Lauren Conaway 19:02
Yeah. Well, and I love that. And so So I want to ask our founders listening at home, you know, like when you’re kind of looking around your environments, and you’re wondering, who’s not at my table? And I mean, I get tech founders calling me all the time, how come women aren’t applying for jobs? And I’m like, Oh, I have thoughts. Believe you, me. You know, when when these kinds of things are happening, and you’re seeing these glaring discrepancies, I would just ask you, what tools, resources and support can I give my teams? And can I give my community to signal and to allow for, for those differences. And so I just wanted to kind of call that out. Also, really quickly, just want to remind you that finding expert software developers doesn’t have to be difficult, especially when you visit full scale.io where you can build a software team quickly and affordably and y’all know I am Full Scale super fan, my friends, but when you use the Full Scale platform to define your technical needs, you can see what avail Little developers, testers and leaders are ready to join your team really quickly, and it’s super convenient. Is it full scale.io? To learn more? Well, so we’ve kind of touched on the dolls, Eliza. And we’ve touched on the need. But I want to talk to you a little bit more about your methodology. So you said that you are you’re, you’re in pretty early stages. And we talked a little bit about, like, how you got customer feedback, but what other processes did you put into place as you were developing the doll? What were some of the things that you were looking at? And trying to address?
Eliza Kosoy 20:36
Yeah, that’s a good question. So like I said, I’m in a PhD. So I feel like I kind of attack things from a scientific mind. So when a lot like I get this question a lot, like, why a doll? So one of the things I actually wanted to study in a scientific experiment, and as a part of my PhD research now is, Do girls prefer to code a doll. So one of the experiments that I ran with kids, five to 12, in the Bay Area at the children’s museums that we test was, I asked girls and boys, I basically showed them the little computer that you can code and I said, we’re going to be coding today. So here’s what we’re going to code this little computer. And now you have the choice. Which do you prefer to coat it inside of this doll? Or do you prefer to coat it inside of this race car? And you know, just to, you know, find out for myself like, Am I crazy with this doll hypothesis. And what I found was in the girls, 75% of them prefer to code a doll and the boys 95% prefer to code the race car for the robot. I’m doing a couple of follow up studies now. But this was kind of the first glimpse I really had where there’s such a clear preference in little kids, there’s a statistical significance. I ran this with over 50 kids right now. And I’m going to do a couple more studies. But things like this are what went into me designing the product and thinking about the product, and really making sure that it’s something girls would want to play with and prefer to play with, and kind of show that there is some difference in their preferences. So that was a big part of it. And then yeah, a lot of user user feedback is very key. So
Lauren Conaway 22:15
I think those are the two ways honest, little girls can’t escape. But the parents,
Eliza Kosoy 22:20
I mean, the parents have a lot of feedback, too. And some of them, they don’t even give it to you right on the day, like a lot of it came in follow ups, which I found fascinating, which is another part of the study, which is what happens after you interact with this doll. So first, when I was just testing my neighbors, you know, like a week later, a mom would send me a photo and be like, Oh, my God, look, she’s trying to do this robot thing. It’s totally your fault. Because you made a play with that doll. You know, like, yeah, and then what I was finding, so that I’ve made that a part of my study to where I follow up with parents, a week after the interaction, and I say, like, did anything change in your child? And so many parents were like, Oh, my God, now she’s asking me about my, my computer when I’m working? Or can I join this coding camp or this and that. So I think what’s really a big part of the research too, is the impact that an interaction, a positive interaction with coding can have on a young girl, that’s huge, basically, like if at age five, anyone listening to this right now, you can just go out with your kid or your daughter, and have a positive coding interaction with them, that literally has lifelong effects. Because then they always look back on that moment as like, oh, you know. So that’s something that I see happening with the doll and was a part of why I wanted it to be the way that it is. And the feedback I got from parents, which was like, probing them in these ways. And like having them think about coding and making the inside of the doll clear. So they can see the hardware really makes them question like how do things work? What’s going on? What’s my mom’s iPhone? What is that? Why is that working? You know, so, things like that, yeah,
Lauren Conaway 23:52
you are going to be responsible for so many parents coming home and finding that their little girl like took apart the toaster while they were out or something like that. That’s that curiosity about how things are built, I think is kind of one of the cornerstones of a love for tech, you know, and entrepreneurship really like problem solvers, figuring things out, those are kind of the core constructs of who you have to be, if you’re interested in these, these fields, right?
Eliza Kosoy 24:20
Yeah. And I think especially having the confidence to be like 18 and say, like, oh, I took apart the toaster when I was seven. That’s huge, because a lot of people if they’re only getting into it later, then they have all this anxiety that they’re not good enough to so I think starting really early on is so key. Yeah.
Lauren Conaway 24:37
Well, and I think we know you know, impostor syndrome can affect everyone but I do believe that it affects women disproportionately. So anything you can do to kind of shore up someone’s instinct and belief in themselves. Like honestly, you know, one of the things about being entrepreneur like I always tell people you know, I’ve always been an entrepreneur, I always had lemonade stands. I was babysat. I always like You know, I always did all of these things like it was one of those things that was always in me. And so therefore, it was never a question that I was this thing. And that I could be this thing because it was a piece that was already in me. Now, a piece of that puzzle that you are addressing very, very well is that representation piece like is as a child growing up, I needed to not only believe that I was an entrepreneur, but I also needed to see other women entrepreneurs, who looked like me, some who don’t look like me, but you know, I needed to understand that it is what is possible through representation. And so if your hypothesis works, and I imagine it will, as we start to see more young girls engage in STEM, they grow up, they become stemness, scientists, mathematicians, engineers, whatever it is, that begets more progress, right? It becomes exponential growth. Because for each person that you see, you know, each woman that you see running a lab, you’re gonna see three people coming up behind her and saying, I was inspired by that individual, and they mentored me, and they championed me, and they showed me that it could be done. Right. And so that that the goal,
Eliza Kosoy 26:15
yeah, and like, for example, I’m in a PHD with a female advisor. Her name is Alison Gopnik. And she’s been my hero for so many years. And just working with her. Yeah, has just shown me that it is possible, and that it really mattered to me to have a female grad advisor. So yeah, I know, for sure, patient matters for sure.
Lauren Conaway 26:36
Honestly, like it would be really, really terrible of me to not, you know, talk about the fact that that I believe in that I believe in exclusivity and inclusivity. At the same time, like sometimes I think that it’s really important to have safe spaces where you can go somewhere, and you know, that someone like I can look at you Eliza, and I can say, she’s a woman. And we have very different experiences. And we do very different things. But there are pieces of our journey that are similar. And I can just look at you and know that I don’t even have to ask you about your experiences, because I know that you’re a woman, right? And there’s comfort in that knowing that someone has been where you are, and that you have the opportunity to be mentored by them to ask questions to, to talk to them. I love you talking about your mentors, who are some of the other folks who have helped you along your journey.
Eliza Kosoy 27:28
Oh, man I’ve had I’m so privileged
Lauren Conaway 27:33
each moment, but if you forget anybody, I don’t think anybody’s going to hold it against you.
Eliza Kosoy 27:38
College. It was amazing. The chair of our math department was a woman, Yulia. She was incredible. And then she really helped me see, like, I could do math, and it was cool. And it was okay. She helped me get summer internships, which was incredible. And now I have Alison Gopnik at Berkeley, who’s an incredible mentor. And you know, I think some of the other people that are advisors to the company like Hunka Dragon, she’s a professor at Berkeley. She’s a leading roboticist in the field and it’s just incredible. And I love her Rupi Kaur, who is a very famous poet and writer,
Lauren Conaway 28:21
I have to tell you, I saw that on the setlist. And I got so excited because milk and honey is actually like my favorite poetry collection. And I wanted to ask you, I was very, very curious, as a poet, someone who is fully entrenched in the creative world, what do you think I’m gonna ask you to speculate? Why do you think she wanted to get involved with Eli as adults?
Eliza Kosoy 28:44
Well, I think rupee is really, you know, a just like a feminist icon. I think that she’s interested in investing, I think, you know, a lot. There’s a new movement to and getting women to invest. Now. It’s such an also a male dominated industry. I think that’s really just trying to get into that. But also, I happened to meet her through a innovation prize that I won. She was one of the board members for it. And that’s how we originally met. So she’s kind of been there for the journey for quite a few years, actually. And I think she really just believes in education for women. And I just think she really cares about promoting women in any way, whether it’s stem or poetry or creativity. She’s just really an icon and inspiration to me as well. So I think, why she wanted to get involved.
Lauren Conaway 29:33
Well, I know that probably wasn’t a super fair question, but I do have to tell you that I was I was fascinated when I was like, Oh my gosh, like I love her. Well, so that is that is really cool. Now I want to ask you, I’m going to take us back out to kind of like the big the big lens again. And I’m gonna say, Why do you think gender diversity in STEM is important?
Eliza Kosoy 29:56
Yeah, it’s a great question. So I’ve seen firsthand why it’s simple. So let’s just say you’re working at a lab at MIT, you guys have all the money in the world, all the brains in the world, if everyone in that room is like a privileged white male nerd, then the way that which they’re going to solve the world’s problems with all their money and all their brains is going to kind of help one type of person, right? If you have diversity in that room, and different perspectives and opinions, then that’s how the world’s issues really get solved. And that’s the best way to use I think the world’s resources of money and brainpower to solve problems is to bring in people from all different perspectives, cultures, and that’s how you solve problems. And that’s why I really think that diversity matters, especially having more women and more people of color in these rooms, because that’s how we get different opinions. And that’s how the problems really get solved.
Lauren Conaway 30:47
Yeah, well, and I’m gonna, for our listeners, I’m gonna go ahead and use a quick story to illustrate the point. I’ve used it before. It’s a big, big story. But you can Google it. But you know, a while back, there was a large amount of controversy. Google had developed a, I think it was Google had developed a facial recognition tool. But their facial recognition tool was having difficulty identifying people of color. And the reason that it was having AI difficulty identifying people of color was because when they were building the product, there weren’t any people of color in the room. And so that when they were testing it, and feeding this AI, facial recognition software, the necessary information that it needed, in order to identify faces, it didn’t have any black or brown people to work off of. And that problem never would have happened, had we seen more diversity in the room. And so I wouldn’t when we talk about representation, and we talk about having those unique perspectives, not only are we We’re talking about bringing viewpoints, and we’re talking about bringing different lived experiences into room so that we can ultimately create a better experience for end users. And you’re absolutely right, like you just you hit it on the head. That is absolutely why we need to see more representation. So I love the dolls. And I love the concept. I guess my question to you is, what do you see as the future of Eli as adults? And how it fits into this kind of social change period that we seem to be in now?
Eliza Kosoy 32:26
Yeah, I think that’s a really good question. And just to piggyback off what you said, there’s a really great paper, the woman that wrote I think the original paper on that her name is Joy, she was at MIT actually met her once a few times, she’s super cool. And her paper gender shades, I think it wasn’t just Google, she looked at a lot of different image classifiers and showed the results. And there’s a great Netflix show coded bias about it. So I’m just a huge fan of that work. But the future of Eliza dolls, I mean, I think it really is just getting the doll into as many hands of little girls all over the world as I can. And really, hopefully creating a community in which we can, you know, girls can share their code. And I’d love to do more outreach, like either at libraries, or, you know, the dream would be to have like a Build A Bear center, that’s like an Eliza doll center that maybe looks like the Apple Store, but feels like a library. And it’s a place where people, you know, little kids can come in code and share and really build community and feel space building there. But it’s also like a fun and creative space. We’re just getting started. So right now we’ll be just selling direct to consumer, their Kickstarter, but you know, who knows what the future brings? And hopefully we can scale it getting into some big box stores, etc. So that’s kind of the goal. Yeah.
Lauren Conaway 33:41
Well, that all sounds super cool. What do you think it’s going to take to get you there? I know they I know. Like I like I said, I know that you’re early stage. And I know that, you know, how do you make God laugh? Do you make a plan? So I’m not asking. Let’s not hold her to it, friends. But what are some of the steps that you see is necessary to get to where you want to go?
Eliza Kosoy 34:04
Yeah, I mean, the biggest challenge for me has been trying to create a manufacturable product that won’t cost too much like every feature that I want. And it right now is so complicated. And I made the first prototypes myself. So I kind of went crazy. So I’m really trying to minimize the design on the inside the electronics and because right now I’m sending it to factories, and they’re like, this isn’t really manufacturable fix this fix this. So that’s kind of my biggest hurdle right now is really downsizing it so that it can be scaled, and manufacturable. And then hopefully just the reach of the Kickstarter, just trying to make that go as far as possible and raise enough money to really meet the minimum purchase order from the factory is kind of my two biggest challenges right now.
Lauren Conaway 34:49
Yeah. Okay, well, well, I wish you the best of luck with that. Actually, I have some thoughts and we should talk offline but sorry. I asked you, you know what it would take you to get Eli as adults where you want to go? What do you think it’s going to take to get society to where you want to go? Because you have some pretty deep goals, my friends very deep and lofty and wonderful, beautiful goals that I am 100% and supportive. But what do you think it’s gonna take to get us there?
Eliza Kosoy 35:20
I think it just takes like the length of a generation starting now, basically, like, if we get five to 10 year olds interested in these things now, then in 20 years, it’s gonna have some impact. And then like five years, it’s gonna have major impact, because then those are the women that are going to be the CEOs, and they’re gonna be the next Zuckerberg and Elon Musk and Bill Gates and all these people basically, like, I want to have like four female names that were saying with that same rigor. And what’s funny is, when you do look at all the top people in tech, like I just said, you know, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk and Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, all those people were tinkering with computers when they were children. So I think I want to see a similar story for for women that are, you know, starting young now that we’ll see in 30 years what they create. So I think it’ll probably take 30 years to kind of reap really the benefits of what I’m trying to say. But it’s,
Lauren Conaway 36:11
like 30 years feels like forever. And it also feels like no time at all. But that’s I mean, when we think about like generational change, they’re not yours. It’s not that much.
Eliza Kosoy 36:22
Yeah, investment in the future now. And I think it’s really the only way to do it correctly. So
Lauren Conaway 36:27
yeah, well, I love that and I definitely appreciate you for leaving the charge. Final, final tactical question. For our our listeners at home. What are what is your best advice? What are some of the ways that they can support their daughters and their their girl children? And maybe I mean, for all I know, maybe even they’re like, they’re non binary? Like, Oh, no. But how can you support and and how can you support that love of STEM?
Eliza Kosoy 36:58
Yeah, that’s a good question. I think I’m providing tools for curiosity and kind of doesn’t even have to be like physical things. But prompting curiosity about how things work is so important. I mean, something that I really was I remember my dad did was like, would show us the math and everything. So if we saw like a sunflower field, he’d like pull over and be like, Look, the Fibonacci sequences inside this flower. Things like that. Tree, you know, the thing, even if just really showing that some kind of patterns are there or just probing the curiosity somehow, I think, is so key. So just taking a little time every day, maybe looking up like a math fact, or a science fact. And just going deep on that I think can have lifelong effects on children,
Lauren Conaway 37:43
for sure. Well, but maybe not like tons and tons of Math Worksheets as enrichment like, maybe, maybe not that didn’t see. Okay, so So I love that. And now now we are we are coming up to the human question. And I find it really interesting. You know, you’ve mentioned your parents it a couple of different junctures. And so I’m going to, I’m going to ask you, what is the greatest life lesson that they imparted to you outside of your love of STEM?
Eliza Kosoy 38:15
Not to take life too seriously. All right. They’re very practical jokers. They’re very goofy. And they’re really good at just, you know, that’s what I’ve learned from them is like, you know, at the end of the day, it’s okay, try to laugh things off, or try to find the joy or beauty and things and the humor and things and take some time to laugh every day and just not get too stressed about the reality, the harsh reality of life, which I know sounds fluffy and simple and not serious. But, you know, in a
Lauren Conaway 38:45
way, that was that was beautiful advice. I think everybody could do with a little bit more joy in their life. Yes. I love that.
Eliza Kosoy 38:54
I try to do that every day. I don’t know weird thing I try to do make a stranger laugh every day. So
Lauren Conaway 38:58
well, for sure. Make sure that your parents listen to this episode, I’m sure that they’re very, very proud of you. We are very, very grateful that you took the time out of your day to chat with us. Thank you so much for sharing the story of Eli as adults, friends, if you’re interested in getting your very own. They are in early stages, but please know that we will provide some information in the show notes, check it out and keep your
Eliza Kosoy 39:22
Get on the website. Get on the email list.
Lauren Conaway 39:25
I do, do all of those things. And make sure to keep your eye on E-Liza Dolls for sure. Another thing that we’re going to ask you to do if you are in a position where you need to hire software engineers, testers or leaders let Full Scale help. They have the people in the platform to help you build and manage a team of experts. When you visit FullScale.io. All you need to do is answer a few quick questions. Then let the platform match you up with fully vetted highly experienced software engineers, testers and leaders. It Full Scale they specialize in building long term teams that work only for you learn more when you visit FullScale.io, and friends, I am going to point you to our social media. The Full Scale production team is doing something kind of cool right now. We’re putting out some video content, short snippets, little pieces of startup TV, but trying to roll out little bite sized morsels of advice and instruction for our members. I just saw one with Andrew Morgans, one of the other hosts of Startup Hustle. He’s our Amazon ecommerce guru, and he’s explaining the Amazon algorithm and I don’t even sell stuff on Amazon. And I was fascinated listening to this explanation because I was like, I have no idea how this works. So definitely check those out. You can find them on our social, we’ve got Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, you can find us all the places, but keep an eye out for that video content that we’ve been putting out. It’s been pretty cool to watch. We are extraordinarily grateful friends that you keep on coming back week after week and listening to us. We are hoping we hope to share your stories so definitely get in touch and keep on coming back. We will catch you next time.