By Abigayle Peterson
Julie Hampton, author and illustrator of Betty Builds It, seeks to give girls in STEM a sense of belonging by fighting against cultural norms. Through the power of storytelling, Hampton engages with an audience of young girls to empower future generations of female STEM leaders. She strives to continue uplifting and encouraging girls in STEM in her books like Betty Builds It.
Hampton initially had the idea for Betty Builds It in UC San Diego Extension’s children’s book writing class. For a long time, she wanted to become a published author. As a proud feminist, Hampton wished that more girls were highlighted in STEM roles. “Seeing yourself [girls in STEM] in a picture book changes the societal dynamic,” Julie says. Alongside her career in Architecture, she pursued writing and illustration for children’s books. After struggling with initial illustration challenges and a long road to publication, Hampton persevered and her debut picture book, Betty Builds It, was published in Fall 2019.
Just as Hampton overcame hurdles while creating the book, the protagonist of Betty Builds It, a prodigy robot girl named Betty, also rises above difficult circumstances within engineering. “At the core, Betty Builds It is about family relationships between Betty, who wants to build a friend that likes to do the same things she likes to do, and her sweet younger brother, Toby,” Julie states.
The book is targeted towards children, and it was written to inspire young girls to realize that they, like Betty, can thrive in STEM careers despite stereotypical cultural expectations. Within the Betty Builds It world, society perceives women in engineering as a normal occurrence. “Betty sets out to create what she wants because she is built for it,” adds Julie. Because Betty manifests the idea that a female in engineering is normal, girls can be inspired to create positive change while ignoring negative societal assumptions. “Betty is a go-getter. She dives into the engineering process because she is hardwired to do that,” affirms Julie. Just as Betty carves a path to success despite hardships, girls should feel free to pursue their own passions in STEM.
Young girls need to have the exposure and proper representation in STEM careers in order to pursue their dreams. Julie ultimately hopes that all girls will feel comfortable in the space of making new inventions. Through impactful books like Betty Builds It, we can shift young girls’ mindsets regarding STEM from ones of discomfort and uncertainty to ones of passion and excitement as we help them understand that they belong in STEM.
Julie strives to continue influencing girls in STEM by educating and informing the audience for her books. “Do not let anything hold you back and reach out to mentors in your field. Everyone wants to inspire others because somebody once inspired them,” advises Julie. As the media begins to wake up and transition to a more inclusive representation of women in STEM, society will also change. The picturesque world of more women and girls thriving in STEM fields being normal will not seem like a faraway dream any longer.