My husband and I just watched a video my sister-in-law posted of her 4-year-old daughter, Lily Mabel, reciting the order of insects. We were amazed at her ability and we enjoyed watching her excitement as she answered each of her mother’s questions correctly. Already Lily Mabel is increasing her chances of a future in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) industries.
Recent studies and articles address the disproportionate number of men and women in STEM jobs. One recent article by Dana Goldstein on Slate.com points out that only 27% of women work in these fields currently. She writes, “Even among the younger generation of tech companies, including Facebook, Google, and Twitter, fewer than 10 percent of all computer programmers—the field’s core job—are women, according to industry insiders.”
The article also discusses the connection between children’s toys at an early age that can give boys an advantage over girls in developing math and computer skills. For instance, girls are often given toys like Legos that foster spatial problem–solving skills, while boys are given computer games that encourage computer and math skills.
In another article, this one from the Huffington Post, Karen Purcell explains why the gender-imbalance in these industries is so detrimental to both sexes in the future. “By maintaining certain fields as male-dominated, we are also allowing the culture within those fields to be established and maintained by men. Therefore, the males in math- and science-related institutions and workplaces will continue to foster cultures that only meet the needs of men. These male-oriented cultures are not inviting to women, and as a result, they deter young women from choosing fields in math and science even if they have exceptional abilities.”
How do we increase the rate of women in STEM-related fields? We can start like Lily Mabel’s mom and encourage little girls to explore sciene and math. I’ve seen plenty of dress-up photos of Lily Mabel, so I know this well-rounded girl loves her fashion too, but I’m happy her parents recognize her love of bugs too.
Do you have a daughter or niece who loves bugs as well as dolls? Are you intentional about choosing toys that are not typically “girl” toys for your daughter, niece, or granddaughter?
Elizabeth McBride loved Legos and Barbies and still uses those skills in web design. She is the director for intergenerational programs and editor of Café—both responsibilities serve to increase the involvement of younger women in Women of the ELCA.