Andrea Wenner Hollander and Solange Schipani: Girls Can Build Things, Too

November 20 - Sarah Ashlock
STEM
 

FIRST THOUGHT: Few Leading Ladies

The other day, I watched my boo’s favorite kid’s movie, The Lion King. TBH, I don’t think I’ve ever watched it fully. If you want a male-led cartoon with a healthy dose of brutality, check it out. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it; it’s a classic for a reason. But where are the females? One female enters the picture as the mother, another enters as a love interest, and yes, I’m still talking about animated lions. I know what you’re saying: “It’s fiction!” Like I said, though, it was my guy’s favorite movie, which means it’s a lot of other guys’ favorites, too. For every Simba and Mufasa, we need to throw in an Elsa or Mulan.

WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 17 Percent

Lady-led movies have been gaining momentum and the Blockbuster dollar signs prove it. Whether it’s the new Ghostbusters or Tallulah, everyone seems to be figuring out that women are watchable. Who knew? Back in 2015, only 17 percent of the top grossing films were led by a woman. When it comes to the other three quarters of movies with actresses in minor roles, take the disparity as an opportunity to have a discussion with your kids.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Andrea Wenner Hollander and Solange Schipani, Co-founders of Wonderhood

Move over, Barbies. Get outta here, Easy Bake Ovens. There’s a new toy in town, and I’m here for it. Today’s Women to Watch, Andrea Wenner Hollander and Solange Schipani, are the masterminds behind Wonderhood, a toy company that encourages girls to get creative and science-y. Since girls are about half of the population of kids, it makes sense to offer them toys beyond the traditional, gendered norm.

Wonderhood features building sets that allow kids to build shops, homes, you name it. For example, the hotel is customizable and perfect for cooperative play. You can build a working elevator, staircase, and even a clock tower. What’s brilliant about Andrea and Solange’s creations is they follow the child’s imagination rather than a preconceived model.

Disrupting the toy industry wasn’t happenstance for these two women. Andrea has a background in business administration, and she used her skills to create a nonprofit called Out2Play, which has constructed 180 playground projects and has raised a cool $35 million. Play’s the name of the game, and Solange executes that message clearly as Wonderhood’s brand manager. When Solange had her two daughters, she left her super important job at Colgate-Palmolive Company to venture out on her own.

The Wonderhood women have been friends for a long time, commiserating over the fact that stuff for their daughters and nieces always had some element of pink and fashion and makeup and princess and yeah, no thanks. A quick peruse of any store’s toy section showed building toys, most of which featured boys on the box.

Stories are included with the Wonderhood toys, featuring girls at the helm. Andrea and Solange say there simply aren’t enough examples of lead characters being female. Whether the character wants to be a doctor or a teacher doesn’t matter; what matters is that girls are reminded they can be or do whatever they dream up.

Andrea and Solange have concocted products that not only encourage girls to pursue tech, but that also encourage them to be open to different ways of doing things. There’s no right or wrong way to build, they say. You just have to get started.

QUITE THE QUOTE

Wonderhood’s open-ended play model mirrors Andrea Wenner Hollander’s view on life. She said:

"Be bold and be willing to chart your own path, even if it's different from what you see your friends doing or if it seems scary and unpredictable."

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