Two American-born Israeli women sat at lunch a few years ago, complaining as usual about how men – and almost always men – were the ones raking in millions by selling off high-tech startups. How is it, they wondered over their plates of spaghetti, that all this has bypassed women?
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From that conversation, an idea was born: Let's figure out a way, the two women decided, to turn girls onto math and science so that they, too, can enjoy the fruits of similar labors.
The product of their brainstorming is a new 3-D, animated Web series, aimed at showing girls aged 8 through 12 that technology is not just for nerds.
A pilot of the series, which is called “Purple and Nine” – the names of its two, young animated stars – will debut on YouTube on Thursday.
The first season will include 12, five-minute episodes that present several new technologies and encourages viewers to experiment with them to solve various problems.
“If we want to change the world, we need to get women into the fields of science, technology, math and engineers,” says Rebecca Rachmany, founder and CEO of Gangly Sister, the production company that created the series and was incorporated in November. “We thought to ourselves, What’s the best way of influencing young girls?, and the answer we came up with was through cartoons.”
In the pilot (which will be available at http://www.ganglysister.com/watch/episodes/), Purple and Nine try to use a 3-D printer to fix a chess piece before Purple’s father discovers they’ve broken it.
Gangly Sister was set up “to create entertainment that our kids love to watch, but that, as parents, we’re not humiliated [to see] that they’re watching,” Rachmany explains, adding that there are plans to create other Web-based series.
Meanwhile, early next month the company will launch a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo to raise $100,000 to underwrite the completion of the first season's episodes.
Although most of the production team is based in Israel, Rachmany says the “Purple and Nine” target audience is international. Thus, the series has been recorded in English, and will soon be translated into both Chinese and Spanish. Eventually, Rachmany adds, it will also be subtitled in Hebrew.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, women comprise less than one-quarter of the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce in America. A recent international report found that the share of women in STEM fields in OECD countries has increased slightly over the past decade, from 23 percent to 27 percent. Still, according to this 2012 report, on average only 5 percent of 15-year-old girls in OECD countries plan a career in engineering or computing, compared with 18 percent of boys.
Although the goal of "Purple and Nine" is to bring more women into high-tech, Rachmany and her team also hope to eventually make some money in the process as well.
“It’s a business like any other,” she says. “We believe there will be money in this from corporate sponsorships, merchandising agreements, apps and all sorts of other things.”
Rachmany, who moved to Israel from New Jersey in 1990, is a high-tech marketing professional who has also run a few of her own businesses. Her partner in the venture, chief operating officer Miriam Lottner, immigrated from California 20 years ago, and has worked both in high-tech and retail. Their scriptwriter, Michael Church, is a Lutheran pastor from Virginia.
The voice for Purple, the cool character who loves skateboarding and music, is provided by Rachmany’s teenage daughter, Maya. The voice of her partner in crime – the compassionate Nine, who is devoted to social justice and animal rights – is that of another aspiring actress, Liat Shapiro, who is the daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro.
How did they come up with the names Purple and Nine? “It’s like any names you choose for kids,” replies Rachmany. “We just happened to love them.”