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This Philly designer wants to fight the gender gap with STEM jewelry

Growing up in the Philly suburbs, 19-year-old Raquel Dunoff had always shown an inkling for math and science, but was often outnumbered by male students.

“At my public school, I was often the only girl or one of few in my STEM classes,” Dunoff, of Plymouth Meeting, told Technical.ly. “There was one other girl in my computer science class and I was the only girl in my shop class. This was hard, especially in teaming scenarios as I was often ignored.”

Now an engineering student at Massachusetts-based Olin College of Engineering, Dunoff said a need for more female role models in STEM drove her to start a jewelry lined focused on symbols from the world of science. The line of accessories, Trendsetter Gear, features tiny robots, winding DNA molecules, beaker earrings and, duh, gears.

“I started Trendsetter Gear to both help other women find these empowering role models in STEM and to make women more comfortable taking on a STEM career,” said Dunoff.

The engineering student, currently interning at Ambler, Pa.-based marketing company Clutch, set out to help women express those passions by coupling STEM role models with hand-made jewelry as a way to level the playing field in STEM fields — where women, in the U.S. at least, only hold 24 percent of jobs. Her nascent brand launched over the weekend at the first-ever Philly Maker Faire.

“Many women tend not to choose a STEM career as it [is] seen as masculine,” Dunoff said. “It is uncomfortable to enter a community that you do not feel a part of. However, there are women out there, like myself, who love what they do and want to share their passions with others. We see the beauty in elements of math and science and enjoy solving the world’s problems.”

Dunoff said so far her experience working on STEM projects has been better when there are other women on her team.

“I want to help make this a more common reality for women everywhere,” Dunoff said. “By empowering more women to take on STEM careers, I can do my share to make a gender balanced environment in STEM the norm.”

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