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Glen Ellyn entrepreneur attends White House conference on gender stereotypes

Jodi Bondi Norgaard is creator of Go! Go! Sports Girls doll line

GLEN ELLYN – Through her Go! Go! Sports Girls doll line, Glen Ellyn resident Jodi Bondi Norgaard has tried to encourage girls to be healthy physically, mentally and emotionally.

So Norgaard was honored when she was invited to the White House on April 6 for a conference on "Helping Children Explore, Learn and Dream Without Limits: Breaking Down Gender Stereotypes in Media and Toys."

"It really was a nice validation of everything that I've done in the last seven years," Norgaard said. "It doesn't get much better than an invite to the White House, and only among 150 people invited."

Kara Douglass Thom, the author of the Go! Go! Sports Girl book series, also was invited to the conference along with Norgaard. They were part of the audience at the conference and listened to a variety of speakers talk about the subject of gender stereotypes.

"Kids These Days: What's Going on in the Lives of Boys and Girls Today?" and "Gender Disparities in Children's Media and Toys" were among the topics covered at the conference.

Among those who spoke at the conference was the senior vice president and global general manager for Mattel's Girls' Brands, along with a representative from Lego. During the conference, researchers pointed out that if society doesn't do something to correct the gender stereotypes in media and toys, "it will affect the next generation drastically and their career choices," Norgaard said.

"It's going to ultimately affect our economy," she said. "We need to stop pigeonholing girls into that they have to look a certain way, or for boys, that they have to act a certain way, that they can't be nurturing. It's worse than it's ever been. That's basically what the conference was all about."

Her daughter, Grace, now 19, inspired Norgaard to create her first doll – Tennis Girl Gracie. Norgaard said she came away from the conference with some fresh ideas on how she can continue to tackle the issue of gender stereotypes.

"We really need to talk to our children as parents, educators and caregivers," she said. "We need to talk to children about the stereotypes. When we see something that just isn't right, we need to point it out, ask them questions and have them ask us questions."

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