Moms in Tech: Jaya from Svaya
Tell us about Svaha! What inspired you to build your own e-commerce business?
I came up with the idea for Svaha after my aspiring astronaut daughter asked me to get her an astronaut t-shirt for her birthday. I began looking and I couldn’t find one in the girl’s department of any store! I finally bought her a boys t-shirt. After shopping in the sea of pinks and princess for girls, it dawned on me that gender stereotyping in children’s’ clothing was out of control! I was not happy with the message that was being sent to kids, and I did not want my kids to grow up thinking that they were expected to do something because that was the norm. My biggest concern was the lack of STEAM-based (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) designs for girls.
My background is actually in Fashion Merchandising and I was the apparel buyer at ThinkGeek, so I knew I had the apparel manufacturing and e-commerce know-how to try to make a change! I decided to take the matter into my own hands and create clothes for girls and boys to send the message that kids can love anything and be anything! Since my daughter was my inspiration, the company is named after her. We started with children’s clothes, then just recently added a women’s apparel line aimed at providing Smart Dresses for Smart Women who love STEAM!
What is your connection with technology?
My father was an engineer and used to build his own music systems from scratch. He would make circuit boards at home (the really old fashioned way). My job was to paint the lines, then put them into a solution to get rid of the coating of the board. It might sound boring, but I absolutely loved it! I was exposed to transistors, capacitors, and other parts used for creating a circuit board. Though I decided to pursue fashion merchandising, technology is still one of my first loves and keeping up with the latest innovations is my passion. I am even married to an engineer!
Do you want your children to learn to code?
I cannot wait for my kids to start learning to code! In fact, my daughter started learning computers at the age of 3. I think it is so important for kids to learn to create something on their own and get a basic understanding of how things work. Technology is such an integral part of everything we do today. I want my kids to have an in-depth understanding of coding, so I am doing everything I can to encourage it.
Why do you think that girls are under-represented in the STEM fields?
Sadly, I feel like the main reason for this is gender stereotypes. So many people (men & women!) just assume that girls will not be interested in coding, or anything to do with engineering or math, so girls traditionally haven’t been encouraged to pursue careers in it. I feel like things seem to be changing for the better though. I think that a lot of people realize there is a problem and are working hard to try to change it. From my firsthand experience, once we started Svaha, we had a landslide of emails and comments from people telling us they were absolutely thrilled we were making clothes that reflected their daughter’s STEM interests! These messages from customers have been the most rewarding part of what we do.
We know that girls in STEM are not represented in media and fashion, how do you think changing this will change the future?
There are still many children who shy away from doing something that is far removed from the traditional gender stereotypes. However, the more girls in STEM are represented in media and fashion, the quicker these stereotypes will change! Since so many kids just want to ‘fit in’, we want to show that ‘fitting in’ means loving STEM! I want to give kids a constant reminder that there is nothing a girl or a boy cannot do. I love the recent efforts in media to celebrate female STEM pioneers. The more we expose girls to awesome women achievers in the STEM fields, the more accessible these careers will appear to girls. We all know that fashion plays a huge role in our identities, so I want to use clothes to show girls that the sky’s the limit! For example, if a young girl sees clothes with engineering designs in the girl’s department, it shows her that girls liking engineering IS the gender norm and gives the message that it is okay for her to love engineering. We have a long way to go, but we are moving in the right direction. We need to just keep pushing forward.