Thursday, 24 May 2018

Women in STEM? It starts with the parents

I posted this rant on Facebook and it's had a lot of love so I'm sharing here.

I may get around to updating/expanding it ... I may not.


If we want more women in STE(A)M then we need to start by educating their parents. If little girls aren't taken to science events, coding events (many of which are free) they'll fall behind their male peers. And it's pretty obvious that then they won't be interested ... after all, how much do you enjoying something when you're the person in the room with the least experience, prior knowledge or expertise?

Here's the rant:

One thing (of the many) that whoppies me up is people going on & on about women in STEM. I particularly enjoy the pontifications of men who make pronouncements along the lines of girls enjoying the design side of things. They are part of the problem (and need a strong talking to).
Last night I took my 7 year old son to a '3d design' class running at our local library. It costs $20 a child, and runs over 3 weeks - so the barriers to entry are pretty low (not non-existent, but low). Of the maybe 8 children who were there guess how many were girls.
That's right - NONE. Not one single girl.
This class is aimed at young children (ages 8+) so the driver in getting children there is the parents. If I'd asked my son if he wanted to go he would have said 'no' (default answer to everything) but I know he likes technology (yet to see a child who doesn't) so I carted him along.
And those 8 boys who were there last night now have an edge. When they use a design program at school or do 3d printing or whatever - the girls in the class will hear the boys shouting about how they've done this before and know all about it. At the next session run by a library or council, the boys will be making all the noise about how they've done this before and that they know this and that.
And the girls are behind the 8-ball. Partly because they're probably not shouting. Partly because it's intimidating being around people who have already done whatever it is you're doing.
It doesn't matter if you don't know how to turn on a computer and it doesn't matter what your daughter wants to do when she grows up. When they're little, it's your responsibility to take your child (of either gender) to experience as many things as possible, from as diverse a range of fields as possible.
'Fixing' the lack of women in STEM doesn't come down to creating programs - it comes down to educating parents that they have to get their daughters involved from an early age. Because if all the boys are programming by the time they're ten, then the girls are going to struggle to catch up.


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