By Amanda Weston
The female CEO of a company helping girls get excited about STEM education is looking toward a brighter future in the industry ーeven after being cut from a news segment on that very subject in favor of a man.
Ayah Bdeir, founder and CEO of littleBits, wrote a blog post about her experience of being cut from a "60 Minutes" segment that focused on closing the gender gap in the tech industry.
Bdeir wrote that the show's producers were initially excited about the story and the mission driving littleBits. But months later, there was a big change.
"We went through dozens, and maybe hundreds of hours of planning, coordinating, shooting interviews, and then ultimately about in August, received an email from the producers where they said that they decided to shift the focus of the interview," Bdeir told Cheddar Thursday.
"The topic would still be how to get girls into STEM and computer science, but the featured interview would no longer be mine, and littleBits would no longer be center stage. It would instead be Code.org and the founder of Code.org, Hadi Partovi."
Partovi is a man, and the most heavily featured interviewee in the final segment. littleBits is mentioned about 10 minutes into the 12-minute story, but Bdeir is not included.
Instead, brief clips from her interview are on CBS's website, branded "60 Minutes Overtime."
On social media, some users called out CBS for erasing a woman's voice on the gender gap and replacing it with a man's.
Following the controversy, Bdeir is returning the focus to littleBits' mission and progress.
"One of our missions at littleBits is to inspire girls in particular to get into tech and into STEM," Bdeir said. "And we do that by sort of breaking with the tradition of how electronics are usually viewed. We make them not about robotics, not about shooting games ー it's also about creating ferris wheels or prank alarms or inventions for good. And we're able to tap into a girl's hobbies, whatever they are."
The company creates systems of electronic building blocks that snap together with magnets, allowing children to turn ideas into inventions. littleBits says up to 40 percent of children using the kits are girls, four times the industry average.
While Bdeir said issues of discrimination, sexism, and pay inequity still exist in the tech workforce, there is now more awareness that there is a problem.
"That's something that when I first started the company in 2011, was not necessarily talked about," Bdeir said. "It wasn't really a widespread subject, and now it's really become kind of a given. Everybody knows there's a problem of diversity in the tech workforce, in the STEM workforce, in the computer science workforce, and companies are really trying to address it, and governments as well. What we've also seen, on a positive tone, a lot of initiatives that have been successful in starting to change the conversation and change their issue."
For full interview click here.