Cool Girls with Tag: STEM

Claire Koster

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Clair Koster HeadshotName: Claire Koster
Age: 18
Location: St. Louis, MO
Occupation: Student, STEM Instructor, Teaching Assistant, Volunteer

At only 18 years old, Claire Koster already has made an impact on her community, running the Women’s Advocacy Group at her high-school, volunteering at a homeless outreach center, assisting in a STEM program, studying to become an educator, and speaking out for those who confront societal challenges.

Her empathy and compassion are what spurred her to apply action to her emotion.

“When you see that there are obstacles keeping people from joy or security or happiness, those obstacles become yours, too, in certain ways. I have a younger brother with Down Syndrome who is the most fantastic human I have ever met in my life, and once I was old enough to understand that he would have a harder time living the life he desired than I may have, it made me want to understand what causes those sorts of obstacles and how they can be solved. That totally snowballed into caring deeply about the ways other forms of identity cause one to be marginalized,” she explains.

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Clair Koster with her brother standing in front of a river.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Claire took over running the Women’s Advocacy Group at her conservative, Catholic, all-female high-school after the founder graduated.

Trees with text: "Love has the kind of power cynicism only wishes it had." -Bob Goff“There were certain topics that pertain intensely to gender equality but we weren’t able to talk about as openly as we would have liked to because they did not align politically with Catholic values. That was certainly frustrating, but meant that we chose to take our conversations in a direction of opening a dialogue about gender and equality in a way that felt accessible to everyone. It was exciting to see how willing people were to enter into that dialogue,” she says.

Beyond her education and in-school advocacy, Claire also volunteered her services at the Marian STEM Club, an enrichment activity that was offered as part of their curriculum.

“Marian Middle School has an extended-day, extended-year model, so from 4:00-5:30 each day the students choose an enrichment to participate in. Each Thursday, we would come and do STEM activities with about 12 students,” she says. “It has been such a joy to get to grow in community with the students and learn with and from them.”

Text image: "The nonevent is the best part of life."Outside of school and supplemental activities, Claire also spends time at the St. Patrick’s Center, a homeless outreach organization, where she volunteers during their Women’s Nights, where they make, serve, and eat dinner with the women seeking shelter and assistance.

As she prepares for college, Claire looks forward to becoming a teacher herself.

“I’m currently majoring in secondary teaching, and I will study either sociology or english, or maybe both! I have been so incredibly impacted by teachers who have supported me and seen me as someone more capable than I saw myself. That sounds trite, but is such a deeply impactful thing. I can’t think of a better way to spend my life than to seek to do that for others.”

What wisdom does this brilliant young lady have for other young girls who, like her, are growing up and trying to do the best they can with what they were given?

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Clair Koster with her brother, close up.“I think that as we get older, we discover things about ourselves that prevent us from “fitting in” with the people around us. We’ve been told that, one day, these things will be our superpowers. But they certainly aren’t yet, or at least they don’t feel that way. My best advice is to learn to sit with those things. You don’t have to love them, you don’t have to show them off or build a life around them, but try your best not to push them down and away from you, because one day, you and I will both realize that they are superpowers, and we will want them back.”

For her maturity, poise, benevolence, and grace, we think Claire Koster is an incredible human being and one super Cool Girl!

A $200 donation was made to Marian Middle School on behalf of Claire. You can donate here.

100 Cool Girls

Since we initiated our Cool Girl movement in 2009 we’ve featured scientists, athletes, artists, entrepreneurs, hopers, dreamers, and doers. We’ve had the pleasure to meet and get to know a lot of amazing women of all ages doing amazing things. And as of December 2017, we hit 100 Cool Girls!

But, who is a Cool Girl? A Cool Girl is someone who defends awesome: an everyday superhero! Someone who exudes positivity, and leads by example. Cool Girls make a difference in their communities and the world, challenge the norm, and aren’t afraid to be themselves.

We’d like to take this momentous occasion to highlight some individuals who have made a lasting impression. Each and every Cool Girl is inspiring, but if we included them all this post would be, well, 100 Cool Girls long. So, please use this as a teaser of truly extraordinary women and then take a look through the whole blog.

Know some inspirational women yourself? Nominate them to be a Cool Girl. They may get featured here, get some cool socks, and might also get some support for a project or charity of their choice.

If you just want to give a shout out to a really awesome woman in your life, you can also leave a comment.

Graphic Novelist and Cool Girl Lucy KnisleyLucy Knisley
Graphic novel artist & author
Featured 2016

Lucy has been drawing since she was a kid, publishing comics since she was 19, and published her first graphic novel when she was 21! A lot of her work is autobiographical including growing up with her chef mom (Relish), jet-setting around the world (Age of License), and her work in progress about becoming a parent (Kid Gloves). Read more.

“Other girls and women in cool professions are the best and greatest resource you can possibly imagine. Hold up your fellow lady, and your fellow lady will hold you up!” -Lucy Knisley, Cool Girl

Professional Fighter, Writer, Teacher and Cool Girl Roxanne ModafferiRoxanne Modafferi
Professional Fighter, Writer, Teacher
Featured 2014

Roxanne started practicing Tae Kwon Do in grade school after watching Power Rangers and trained hard to make it onto The Ultimate Fighter 18! She’s triumphed over injuries and ill-timed food poisoning to not only win fights, but teach and write (Memoirs of a Happy Warrior). Read more.

“I was greatly influence by TV superheros who always did the right thing no matter how troublesome, and saved people.” -Roxanne Modaferri, Cool Girl

Irene Gabashvili
Founder of Aurametrix, Inc
Featured 2012

Irene realized there was a serious need for people to be able to alleviate symptoms for certain chronic ailments and conditions on their own. She developed Aurametrix which is like a digital nurse that looks at all of the different details that can contribute to a person’s symptoms in order to figure out what parts of their life are making them feel better or worse. Read more.

“Believe in yourself, dream and aim high. Don’t be afraid to ask successful people for advice.” -Irene Gabashvili, Cool Girl

Vice President of Tri-North Buidlers, Inc and Cool Girl Anna SternAnna Stern
Vice President of Tri-North Buidlers, Inc
Featured 2012

Anna is Vice President of one of the largest construction companies in the country. Not only is she a powerful figure in a male-dominated industry, she helps host events like Kids Building Wisconsin, which bring attention and support for the construction workforce she oversees. She also supports events for Women Building Wisconsin, an organization that helps connect women within the construction industry and find newer members mentors. Read more.

“I would say the best advice would be to find a good mentor. I’ve been blessed to have great mentors throughout my career and have benefited from their guidance, experience, and willingness to stand up for me.” -Anna Stern, Cool Girl

Artist, Activist and Cool Girl Lindsay AmerLindsay Amer
Artist, Activist
Featured 2017

Lindsay created her YouTube channel Queer Kid Stuff to bridge the gap in theater and education for LGBTQ+ kids. Lindsay creates fun, easily accessible videos made for children featuring inclusive, queer storylines. She powers through online harassment to push for “a kinder and more equal future.” She does have a lot of supportive fans, though, growing every day! Read more.

“If you love it, do it and be it. Don’t listen to what other people want you to do, or think, or say, or be. Listen to yourself and your wants and needs and just do you. You’ll be so much happier for it.” -Lindsay Amer, Cool Girl

BMX Champion Payton and Cool Girl "P-Nut!" RidenourPayton “P-Nut!” Ridenour
Being a kid!
Featured 2012

Payton has been riding since she was 5 and started competing in BMX at a high level when she was 7 and even qualified for the World Championships. She’s traveled all over the United States racing and making a name for herself. She advises other girls interested in the sport: (Read more.)

“They should know that this is an aggressive sport. You need to dress for the crash and not for the ride. But most of all, you need to keep it fun.” -Payton Ridenour, Cool Girl

Co-Founder Petal and Cool Girl Julie WagneJulie Wagne
Co-Founder Petal
Featured 2016

Julie co-founded Petal, which fosters a partnership between artists, designers, and weavers in West Africa and San Francisco. She and her partner Ibrahima are committed to providing resources to tribal villages and communities, to exceeding fair wages, giving security to families, and protecting the cultural heritage of the Fulani people that inspires their textile creations. All this while helping provide education for children in West Africa. (Read more.)

“If you want to do something, do it. Believe in yourself and keep going!” -Julie Wagne, Cool Girl

Writer, Developer, Activist, Founder and Cool Girl Sharon LinSharon Lin
Writer, Developer, Activist, Founder
Featured in 2016

Sharon founded two non-profits to educate girls about technology, has written for publications including Huffington Post, and has started hackathons to spark creative development across communities and industries…all this before she graduated High School. Sharon wasn’t done inspiring other students to pursue computer science, so she also founded BitxBit Camp, which partners middle schoolers with older mentors and opportunities to develop projects. (Read more.)

“Never lose hope of the goals you have, and never let anyone else talk you out of them by saying you’re not good enough, or that you’re not meant for this. Seek out mentors if you can, or find older girls who you admire, and befriend them.” -Sharon Lin, Cool Girl

Biology Lecturer and Cool Girl Joan ManasterJoan Manaster
Biology Lecturer
Featured 2010

Ever wanted to see Gummi Bears get liquefied by sound waves? This Cool Girl has you covered. Joan works as a lecturer for students studying for their Masters of Science in Teaching Biology, but she wants to reach as many people as possible when it comes to the wonders of science. She thinks it’s especially important that women and girls see science as exciting and are able to see more women in STEM roles. She’s fueling this push with her website and Twitter. (Read more.)

“I find myself with a strong desire to have more women in science be seen and heard, as I think this could really influence young ladies. I hope to accomplish this by creating something of an Internet ‘science channel’ featuring video segments that highlight women in science, and to challenge more of them to be visible in this realm.” -Joan Manaster, Cool Girl

Polished Girlz Founder and Cool Girl Alanna WallAlanna Wall
Polished Girlz Founder
Featured 2015

Alanna founded Polished Girlz to bring nail parties to those who couldn’t treat themselves to a nail salon. This non-profit visits those hospitalized due to illness or those with special needs who might not be able to paint their own nails and does it for them! While bringing them a little color and company, it also teaches the importance of frequent hand-washing to reduce infection transmission and the potential for resulting hospital visits. (Read more.)

“For girls facing any challenges, I would like to tell them that they are strong and brave and that I am honored to be able to make you smile even if it is just a little while.” -Alanna Wall, Cool Girl

Marie Millan

2017-01-coolgirl-marie-headshotName: Marie Millan
Age: 20
Location: Champaign, IL
Occupation: Engagement Director

Marie Millan has always been connected. As an infant, her father’s job establishing cell phone networks led to her living in France, Belgium, China, the Philippines, Canada, and finally California, all before the age of eight.

The physical momentum that had her globe-trotting in Pampers must have had an impact on her childhood dreams. It was her exposure to the poverty and struggles of those all over the world that led to her realizing that innovation could be used to alleviate suffering. Not to mention that troubleshooting with toys was the sort of pastime she was drawn to. Initially she became fascinated with NASA and fantasized about becoming an astronaut.

“I would visit the Houston Space Station and my mom could hardly keep track of me since I would go gallivanting off to sit in the cockpits and do the training to prove that I could be an astronaut. I had all the different aircrafts and procedures memorized and wanted to experience zero gravity so that I could drink little balls of orange juice while floating around,” Marie recalls. “That dream though soon changed to me wanting to design and build cars.”

2017-01-coolgirl-marie-officeAs a student in University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Marie grapples with collaborating on group projects like building a walking/crawling robot, and has to be quick-witted and resourceful when calibrations and materials need to be swapped out while working in a group.

“In the end, it’s a tug-of-war kind of game, where you pull a little and others pull back, and the trick is to find a way to equate the tugs so that there’s a balance,” she says. Her ability to maneuver machines and personalities equally deftly is part of what makes her work shine.

Marie does more than planning projects and concocting walking robots. She has become the Engagement Director in MakerGirl, a nonprofit organization that seeks to inspire young girls to be involved in STEM projects and creative processes. Her task is to ensure that the curriculum highlights the benefits of STEM, while also remaining dynamic and engaging.


“It’s finding that middle ground where the girls know they are learning things such as supply and demand, design, and spatial concepts, while having fun, so much so that they don’t mind learning things that they might not regularly be so thrilled about,” she says.

Her father’s influence has made her more than a little sympathetic with those girls who might be coming to terms with being just as overjoyed by making machines as they are about making dresses. “My father told me I could do anything as long as I had the passion and determination to make it happen. He was the one who would tell me that my scrapes and bruises really weren’t that bad and that it was better to just laugh them off. That kind of mentality has helped me through some rough patches, especially being a woman in engineering and has pushed me to do things I didn’t think I would have been able to,” Marie confesses.

As for her own advice to those girls growing up in the age of apparatuses?

“Don’t be afraid to go after and be the change you want to be,” Marie says. “Be all of who you are: engineer, hacker, inventor, artist, designer, storyteller, leader, teacher. All of those qualities together are what make you unique and empowers you to be the one that implements change. Overall, never forget that you can do anything you can dream up.”

For her work in mechanical engineering and her work with MakerGirl, we think Marie Millan is a very Cool Girl!

Check out MakerGirl on their website and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Michele Madansky

2016-10-coolgirl-code-michelemadanksy-300Name: Michele Madansky
Age: 50
Location: Menlo Park, CA
Occupation: Market Research Consultant

When it comes to devouring data and ravaging research, Michele Madansky is at the forefront of her field. Not only does this marketing consultant study the details of advertising and metrics, she helped craft the Elephant in the Valley survey which exposed some of the less savory aspects of being a woman in tech.

Unsurprisingly, someone this talented seemed to come out of the womb with a knack for her niche. “I always loved math, and started programming in Basic and playing on my father’s mainframe computer when I was in middle school,” Michele recalls. “I always thought that I wanted to do something in STEM.  In my high school advanced chemistry class I was only one of two girls!”

As a result of tackling the one-two punch of an undergrad degree in applied math and economics and a PhD, Michele went on to apply her understanding of multivariate statistics and econometric modeling in legendary advertising agency BBDO’s Marketing Sciences department. Since then she has gone on to offer consulting work in a wide spectrum of spheres. “In one week I can be developing consumer insights on college students, new and expectant moms, business travelers and social media users,” she says.

Michele worked pro-bono on Elephant in the Valley after a former coworker at Yahoo! suggested she use her expertise with survey design and analysis on the project. The survey had crystallized after Trae Vassallo was subpoenaed to speak about her experiences during the Ellen Pao trial and this research became a collaborative project.  

“Although I did not have any personal blatant experiences with gender discrimination during my tenure in Silicon Valley I had seen many cases of unconscious and conscious bias, and was happy to help with this project on a pro bono basis,” Michele says. “Trae and I participated in a podcast with Kara Swisher from recode and were shocked and excited about how much interest was generated.”

Elephant in the Valley has sparked the passions of people beyond tech, and beyond gender. The illumination of the sorts of struggles women face in the tech world led to a new curiosity about the experiences of professional women beyond Silicon Valley.

“Based on the success of Elephant in the Valley, the 3% conference ( , which is focused on increasing the number of top women in creative positions in advertising asked me to help them with Elephant on Madison Avenue. I’m hopeful that all of this research about gender discrimination helps future generations of women in advertising and technology,” says Michele. (Elephant on Madison Avenue had its results unveiled by Michele during Advertising Week in New York at the end of last month.)

Between her two sons, both in high-school, and her love of tennis, Michele has a full plate beyond her consulting career. She has definitely moved beyond her formative years at her dad’s “big iron” computer. She reflects on how things have changed, and what this means to those young ladies transitioning to adulthood in the STEM field.

“When I started my career in advertising, most of the “quant geeks” were in the back room crunching numbers. I managed to do well because I had a great boss who supported me, but also because I was comfortable translating data into insights on behalf of clients. Now, there are a lot more opportunities for people with quantitative backgrounds, and they are often considered the rock stars of the agencies.”

For her marketing work and the role she plays in unmasking the gender gap in the professional world, we think Michele Madansky is a very Cool Girl!