Ah, the power of social media. Sometimes this collective muscle can be flexed for good and the results are stunning, just ask Lisa Ryder, whose nine year old daughter loves science.

When Ryder complained on Facebook about Lands’ End gender stereotyping in kid’s clothing, the company was force to take notice.

Ryder said she was shocked to find that Lands’ End offered graphic science-themed T-shirts for boys, but nothing similar for girls. So she turned to Lands’ End’s Facebook page to make her thoughts known.  She noted that the boys’ options included “realistic images of planets and our solar system, labeled diagrams of sharks and dinosaurs,” however, the choices for girls were just “sparkly tees with rhinestones, non-realistic stars and a design featuring a dog dressed like a princess wearing a tutu.”

The choices left her daughter “confused,” Ryder wrote.

“She has read more books on sharks than I ever knew existed, follows NASA news, and hopes to be an astronaut one day,” Ryder told the company. “And until you recognize that it’s not only boys that can fit that description, I’m afraid my family will no longer be shopping in your stores.”

The company responded to Ryder’s post by joining in the Facebook conversation saying that they would pass her feedback along to “our Catalog Creative and Kids Design Teams.”

Meanwhile, other Facebook users began heating up the page by adding to the conversation. They let Lands’ End know that they too were disappointed in the company’s idea of what boys and girls want in clothing design. Many of the users also supported Ryder’s opinion that not only boys are interested in and good at science.

“This grandma has a degree in metallurgical engineering, and would love to buy a science-themed shirt for her granddaughter,” Jane Schmoetzer wrote. “I shouldn’t have to flip to pages marked for boys in order to do it.”

“As a female biologist who studies birds of prey, thank you for taking the time to not only encourage your daughter’s passion for science, but also for encouraging Lands’ End to rethink their gender stereotypes,” Melissa Bobowsk wrote.

The company proved it was paying attention and responded quickly by announcing on its’ Facebook page that they would be rolling out a new line of science-themed T-shirts for girls.  

“You asked, we listened – take a look at our brand-new girls’ science tees,” the company wrote on July 30, posting a link to one of the new items, a “Girls’ Long Sleeve Scallop Edge Space Graphic T-Shirt." "Based on your response to the tees, we will continue to add new styles moving forward."

Besides being the right thing to do, was it a good business decision? Apparently so, because the shirts that had been made available for pre-order quickly sold out. Currently the girl’s science themed tops are on backorder, promising to ship by the end of August.

The company has vowed to feature "more Science designs and size offerings later in the Fall season."

There you have it, one voice quickly turning into hundreds of voices sharing their concern that girls are too often portrayed as only interested in sparkle and silliness while boys are interested in science and things that require a higher IQ to appreciate.

The reason I thought this story was important is because too many young girls show great promise in the sciences only to be discouraged as they grow older. Thinkprogress.com states that according to the National Foundation of Science, 66 percent of fourth grade girls say they like science and math, but only 18 percent of all college engineering majors are female. The stats come from an article on how many ways we discourage girls from pursuing science.

Girls who are mentored, encouraged, given hands-on projects to explore and are expected to do well in science will most often respond by developing a love and deeper appreciation of the sciences. Girls who are stereotyped and are given little chance to participate in the sciences are more likely to brush it off as something that’s just not worth the effort.

I’m glad Lisa Ryder stood up for her daughter’s love of science and publicly called Lands’ End on their clothing choices for girls. I’m also grateful to Lands’ End for listening and responding quickly by offering girls the same science-themed T-shirts offered to boys.

It’s a good start.

Sources: Jeffrey Donovan, http://www.today.com/parents/lands-end-adds-science-tees-girls-after-mom-complains-gender-1D80023587

Jessica Goldstein, http://thinkprogress.org/culture/2014/06/25/3452972/new-commercial-exposes-sneaky-ways-we-discourage-girls-from-science/