‘Screen Queens’ Explores Challenges Women Face in STEM and the Power of Friendship

Lori GoldsteinPhoto courtesy of Lori Goldstein.

Like many girls and women, local author Lori Goldstein was never encouraged to pursue STEM subjects. So when she heard a podcast about the challenges and sexism women face in tech incubators, she decided to create the role models she didn’t have.

“Screen Queens,” out on June 11 from Penguin, is a young adult novel that follows the stories of three teenage girls as they participate in a highly competitive tech incubator (think a tech bootcamp) where the creators of the best app win a prestigious internship.

Goldstein, who lives in Inman Square, will speak about “Screen Queens” at Porter Square Books (25 White St.) on June 12 at 7 p.m.

Lucy Katz, Maddie Li, and Delia Meyer have very different backgrounds and personalities, but as the only girls at the tech incubator they become supportive friends throughout the grueling competition.

“When they see that they’re the only three girls in the competition, it’s putting them off balance,” Goldstein says. “Each deals with it differently. The very driven and ambitious girl, Lucy, takes this almost as, ‘If I’m being underestimated because I’m a girl, I can take that further and really show off my skills.’ One of the other girls, who’s a little more shy and a little more unsure of herself, gets very intimidated by this. And then there are snide comments from some of the boys in the room, sexist comments.”

The teens grapple with many realities that women in tech face, including deciding whether to jeopardize support for their app in order to push back against harassment.

“Do you address it head on, or do you let it go? What do you make a big deal of, what do you not? These are some of the things that they experience, and it’s a learning situation for them,” Goldstein says. “And then it progresses further from there—one of the male mentors makes a move on one of the girls, and this idea of he’ll support her app and her winning the competition, but it comes with some serious strings attached.”

Goldstein says she hopes “Screen Queens” will hope readers overcome whatever type of adversity they’re facing.

“I’m really hoping that they feel empowered, but empowered in whatever is important to them in their life that they need an extra push for,” she says.