Every year, parents, school administrators, and government entities pour millions of dollars into programs designed to encourage children — particularly girls — to take an interest in the so-called STEM fields, science, technology, engineering and math. Turns out, Disney may have solved the problem with one 30-minute cartoon.
I first heard about "Doc McStuffins" about a year ago, when I saw a friend's daughter walking around in a lab coat. I soon learned the ins and outs of this cartoon that now rates number one among the 2- to 5-year-old set. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, "Doc McStuffins" is a cartoon about a young African American girl, Dottie (aka Doc), who plays veterinarian to her stuffed animals. A recent New York Times article details how the cartoon appeals to all races, and has sparked an onslaught of little girls so in love with "Doc" that they insist upon wearing their lab coats to preschool.
The "Doc McStuffins" character was created by Chris Nee, a veteran kids' TV writer and mom. In an interview with MSNBC, Nee said, "I had felt strongly about making sure that Doc was female, and a lot of people said, ‘Well, you created the show for your son, why is it a female lead character?' And I just thought that nobody needs another male doctor or another male leader in a group. What we needed was a female character.”
All of this "Doc-fever" has lit a spark in young girls that no tech giant or school program has yet been able to achieve. Girls are showing an interest in science. Even those who don't watch the cartoon are seeing their friends and classmates in lab coats and taking a closer look at the program.
That is huge — and more than any government program or after school club can claim.
It's too soon to tell if the "Doc McStuffins" phenomenon will cause a surge in women in STEM fields, but it certainly can't hurt. After all, if you can't see it, you can't be it. And that is no longer the case for millions of young Doc fans.
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- New Disney movie helps Jane Goodall save chimpanzees
- Does America really have a STEM shortage?
- After school clubs give girls a needed boost in science