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Aim to Smash that Glass Ceiling, Girls

Picture the image of a successful scientist or computer tech entrepreneur. You thought of a guy, right? That's because people tend to think of men rather than women in such professions, with reason: according to the Israeli Committee on the Advancement and Representation of Women in Institutes of Higher Education, the proportion of women on the senior faculties of universities is just 11% in math and computer science, and 13 % in the physical sciences.

So why are women so badly represented at the top? Are women genetically less talented than men in math and science? Unlikely, since women now earn half the doctorates in science in the US. Is it the clash between career and child-rearing? Or is it, as Rebecca Rahmany claims, because girls just aren't encouraged to rise to high positions the way boys are?

Rebecca is working to change that. She is CEO of Gangly Sister Productions, a firm which produces videos and digital comic books to promote the idea that girls can aim to be anything they want to be, including (and especially) entrepreneurs and scientists.

Rebecca, 47, who grew up in New Jersey and lives in Hod Hasharon with her two children, has worked in the hi-tech field for 25 years. "I was successful, but disheartened because I saw it was men rather than women who were able to network and raise money. Why? I think it's a matter of self-image. In the media, girls are bombarded with images of females who are interested in looking good and getting a boy to fall in love with them. They're valued for sweetness and sensuality, not for career, the way boys are."

The way to influence girls to aim high, she and her partners, Miriam Lothner and animator/illustrator Ofer Rubin felt, was by creating fun media with the message, It's cool to be into technology'. And so they invented Purple and Nine, two charming 10-year-olds who are the heroines of, so far, three comic books and a video. Their unusual names were chosen because they don't have any cultural or ethnic associations, making them identifiable to a maximum number of readers, and also, says Rebecca, just because the names struck them as "funny".

Rebecca's team has worked hard to make the characters and the stories interesting and fun. Purple and Nine have contrasting personalities, families and interests: Purple loves technology and Nine wants to save the world, so together they set out to solve the world's problems using new inventions. "They know that you can love math and also love cuddly pets. They aren't geeks, nerds or social outcasts in spite of their interest in technology; they are cool. They are role models for today's young girls."

In each story, Purple and Nine try to be innovative and solve regular problems in their lives. Technology is important to the plots because all of our lives revolve around technology, and so the girls use apps, a 3D printer and new inventions to come up with answers to their problems.

At the same time, being interested in technology doesn't mean that that girls can't be idealistic as well. "Purple and Nine care about the world. They care about bullying in their class, about pets with no homes, and about child labor in sweat shops."

So far, Gangly Sister has produced three comic books – The Adventures of Pyjama Boy, The Lament of Leslie Loser, and The Princess and the Pea.. and the Corn.. and the Whole Farm Actually. Rebecca has plans for more, but expansion will depend on funding, which in turn will depend on the number of subscribers. Break-even point is 10,000 subscribers and they are aiming for 20,000. They have a way to go.

Rebecca Rahmany says girls aren’t encouraged to rise to high positions

The plot of the first book, The Adventures of Pyjama Boy, written by Michael G Church, explores what Gangly Sister is aiming at. It's the story of a kid who keeps falling asleep in class. Purple and Nine want to help him, and so they explore solutions, such as putting a bracelet on his pulse which reacts when he falls asleep, and so on. Some solutions just don't work, but that doesn't stop them. As Rebecca explains, "Mis-diagnosis is a part of the story, because dealing with failure is important. Getting the answer wrong part of the time is natural." At the same time, using technology to solve problems is important: "Technology is about, 'Wow, there are people in the world I want to help.'"

In the pilot video, Rebecca's daughter Maya speaks the role of Purple, and Liat Shapiro, daughter of the American Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro and his wife Julie, plays Nine.

A pilot episode can be seen on the website,, The price of each comic is $4.99, but Rebecca has provided a code – ESRA20 – which will allow ESRA members to order, if they wish, at a 20% discount.


A geek tragedy if children fail to study science

Purple and Nine is great reading for young girls, targeted at ages 8-12. You can find the comic book in digital format on the website or on Amazon, but it's much less expensive if you buy it directly from the company. According to the creators of Purple and Nine, parents and educators are deluding themselves in thinking that the right education and parental influence will lead children to careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). If children see television shows where nerds and geeks are treated as social outcasts, girls simply will stay away from studying science and math. The Purple and Nine comic book is designed to create fun heroines who are doing cool stuff with technology.



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Friday, 21 June 2024

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