It looks like this week’s theme is women’s equality here at RVS.  Enjoy it while you can, ladies.  Our memories are short.

As the father of two young daughters, I have come to take a far greater interest in the career paths open for women than I might otherwise have.  Sure, they’re both pretty and could probably find rich guys to marry somewhere down the line, but I don’t think there are going to be a whole lot of those among their generation 10 to 15 years from now.

Both of them are intelligent.  Yes, everybody thinks their kids are geniuses but I’m saying their testing scores on various cognitive and aptitude tests verify that they possess “above average” intelligence.  They clearly have tremendous potential and I want to make sure they are able to find careers in which they can support themselves and raise a family and make a meaningful contribution to society.  Perhaps they could work on a cure for some disease or develop a sound weapon that kills jihadists by boiling their eyes.  I’m a man of hope.

I’m convinced that such a future can be found for them in the sciences, but it’s still difficult to young women to make much headway.

So, I saw this quick article from The Economist.  Now, before I go any further, I want to mention that I’m something of a data scientist these days and it is my opinion that this graph sucks:

I mean, I get what they’re trying to communicate, but I feel like I had to stare at this graph waaaaaay too long and wander all over it to get the point.  It’s hard to read and the year ranges are confusing.

Compare it to this one and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  Much, much easier to understand what the presenter is trying to demonstrate, isn’t it?  There’s definitely an art to it.

This first one could have been better.  In fact, I think I should put one together just to prove a point.  I could replicate the data and probably produce something better with the software I have.  Maybe from there, I could send it to The Economist and either troll them or impress them.

Who knows what the possibilities are and what rewards I could realize with a few hours of work and the dedication to produce a quality data product?

Ah, maybe not.  Hey, you can’t argue with Science.  Back to what I was saying…

I’ve tried to spark and nurture an interest in the sciences in my girls the only way I know how: by immersing them in Nerd Culture.  See, I’m a bit of a nerd myself–no, really, I mean it…oh, I see what you did there, yes–and I can’t help but notice that people who enjoy science fiction, gaming, cosplay, and other geek activities seem to overlap with people who have an interest in Science.

Both of my girls are nerds.  They play video games, love anime, and Star Wars and all that.  Each got a Game Boy Advance from me when she was three years old to get a head start.

That’s not all, of course.  Thrilliana, the older one, is interested in Forensic Science and she’s been pursuing Biology and the advanced Maths.  I’ve pledged that when she finishes school, I’ll help her get an in with some of the law enforcement contacts I’ve made over the years.

I made sure Thrilla got a kid’s science kit for her birthday last year and she loves using it.  I’m not sure what she’s researching that requires the use of all of the food coloring in the kitchen, but we’ll get more before Easter.  She wants to be a veterinarian because she loves animals, particularly dogs.

My questions are these:

  1. Why is it so hard to persuade young women to enter the STEM fields?  I worry that my daughters will lose sight of what they want to do and settle for less fulfilling or less challenging work.
  2. What else do either you women or you parents of daughters who pursued work in the sciences recommend I do to help them along?  I’m guessing they need more than Minecraft.

I strongly believe that this is an important social issue and it’s one that affects my family’s future.

25 comments

  1. Why don’t you see if they enjoy automobile design? There’s so few women in the firm elf and so much need for female input for a product almost dominated by a female market that it’s an instant career if a woman even hints at doing it.

    Ford will pay their way through school too, no questions asked because they need more women car designers. It’s creative and I’m sure it’s also sciency 😉

  2. There’s two schools in the country that the auto makers hire from. Art center, and ccsd in Detroit. I’m sure they’d love to have a conversation abou it.

  3. It’s not about nerd culture stuff. I don’t really play video games or cosplay.
    It’s about confidence, if I had to sum it up. Right around this age girls lose confidence in their intelligence. https://www.theatlantic.com/amp/article/514340/ You can counter a lot of societal pressure by how you interact with them and their mother. Praise them for being smart and working hard as much as for being pretty and ‘nice’. Praise their mother and other women for being smart and accomplished in front of them. Don just buy the pink LEGOs (all of these are generic examples, I don’t mean to imply that you personally do or don’t do any of these things.) There are tons of STEM toys out there now, robotics kits made for kids. Get those instead of the Barbie fashion maker. The chemistry kit is a good start. When you are working on your car or computer or whatever, let them watch and help. Don’t ever assume they are not interested in something because they are girls. Watch Cosmos together as a family. Learning about female role models like Marie Curie, Grace Hopper, etc. instead of Taylor Swift and whoever helps. Take them to see Hidden Figures. Get them books about these women or about girl explorers, girl pirates, instead of boy explorers or princesses who wait to be rescued.
    Girls need to see that female scientists, IT people, doctors, professors exist. They need to see that it’s possible to be one of those things and still be a woman and a mother (or not.) They need to know that boys will still make passes at girls who wear glasses. One of the big reasons girls lose interest is because it’s perceived as being detrimental to dating. You automatically shrink the dating pool by going into STEM. Not all men are comfortable with a woman who makes more money, for example. But at a much earlier age, boys aren’t comfortable with girls who do better than them on tests. So many girls dumb down.
    Don’t pull your punches when talking to them. My Dad and I would go on walks and he would just tell me about whatever book he was reading, history, linguistics, whatever. He didn’t dumb it down much, I just had to learn to ask questions if I didn’t understand something. I attribute a lot of what let me pass for a man when I first got here to those walks.
    I don’t really want to distract from the topic, but the way you talk about Hillary v. Trump is something they will internalise. She is an accomplished woman and half the conversation is about how she doesn’t look or sound presidential. The girls hear that and it sticks.
    My daughter did a project about Mae Jemison for Black History month (she wants to be an astronaut, so I suggested that over the names on the list they were given.) One of the things Dr. Jemison talks about often is how she showed interest in medicine as a kid and everyone other than her parents kept telling her that meant she’d be a nurse. She liked Star Trek and wanted to be Uhura, which everyone took to mean she wanted to be on TV. She actually wanted to be a doctor and go into space. Her parents supported her and she found a couple of teachers and professors who took her seriously. And she became a doctor and went into space. We put glitter all over that poster because my daughter is a 7 year old *and* because ‘we are all made of starstuff.’

  4. 1. Yes, that graph sucks, WTH?

    2. I don’t have an answer to either question. My one and only daughter is an RN on her way to an NP, so she is in the (medical) sciences, but it was her love of helping people that got her there. She is definitely not a nerd (unlike me), she loves camping, outdoors, adventure, DIY, etc.

  5. The head designer of the exterior of the Acura NSX that was just released is an woman from San Jose. Here’s a pretty good article on the car, and on her. It includes info about her schooling, and what sparked her interest in cars. Beautiful car (and a beautiful woman…but that’s sexist! or something)

  6. I don’t want to get my feminism all over this post, but why limit them to being car designers? Why can’t they be car engineers?
    There’s a ton of stuff going on the this space right now, with alternative fuels (until yesterday, at least) autonomous cars, etc.
    Kevin can back me up on this, but from a worried parent point of view, I would much rather send my girl to UMich for engineering in Ann Arbor than to CCS for design in Detroit.

  7. Yes, Thrilla is similar in that regard. The love of animals could certainly motivate her to go for medical science. Or she could get bored and lose interest. You see how easily I get distracted! Wouldn’t be hard to see her being the same way.

    Have to get them passionate about their dreams and stick to them.

  8. This is all fantastic. Yes, the confidence aspect is something I had overlooked.

    Thrilla’s big on legos and similar things. I actually encourage her to play Minecraft and she has the toys for that as well. She’s too tomboy for Barbie, so we don’t have to work very hard to push the educational toys on her.

    No Taylor Swift in our home. No Miley either. They’ve grown up listening to the same music we always have on our DJ threads. But I do need to get her learning more about female role models in the sciences. This weekend, my wife wants us to take them to Science City and then get an annual pass. I’m all for it and think it will help with this sort of thing.

    Don’t pull your punches when talking to them.

    What? When I have ever? Yeah, if there’s ONE THING I’ve learned this week…..

    One of the things Dr. Jemison talks about often is how she showed interest in medicine as a kid and everyone other than her parents kept telling her that meant she’d be a nurse. She liked Star Trek and wanted to be Uhura,

    Ah ha! Nerd culture! I knew it! Oddly, Thrilla’s big influence is Leela from Futurama.

  9. This post is in the Feminism category. It’s fair play to spread it far and wide.

    There’s no reason why they couldn’t go the engineering route. JDps just happens to be pretty knowledgeable about design and that’s where he’s coming from.

  10. I get that and it’s a solid recommendation in it’s own right, but you’ve asked how girls get steered away from STEM and this is an example. It’s a lot like saying you daughter should be a nurse if she’s into medicine. There’s nothing wrong with either design or nursing, but would you give that advice to a boy?
    A smart man once called this sort of thing ‘The Misogyny of Soft Expectations’

  11. Oh, God. Don’t ask about my son. We’re not yet to the point that we can convince him that Dragonology isn’t a real thing.

  12. You can say she is a beautiful woman. She is.
    But, if you are around a little girl, please say that she is an intelligent, accomplished, beautiful woman. It helps.

  13. I am a designer. Design is what I know. I mentioned car design because it’s what I know. I didn’t mention that could go to school to be astronauts not because I didn’t think a woman couldn’t do it but because it’s not something I know or could lend experience to.

  14. Taking a couple years off and joining anericorps is an option. I’m having a similar situation with my niece in law. She graduated high school and her parents rushed her into university. When she mentioned she wasn’t feeling it her parents weren’t having it. So she did what any teenager with a helicopter parent would do, she knifed it to death in secret and dropped it in her parents lap that way.

    I’m the only one in the family saying that wandering around aimlessly mounting a 50 thousand dollar pile of debt isn’t always the best approach to life, and americorps will pay for college (in addition to giving you time to mature).

  15. My daughter’s first princess costume was Princess Leia.

    My esteem for you has just increased tenfold.

  16. In a similar vein, two years of community college and then a transfer is a good way to go if you are not sure at 18

  17. I am just using you to illustrate my point. As I’ve mentioned, I also think that it’s a good recommendation.

  18. It wasn’t quite the size I was going for, but I still don’t know how to edit my posts. I guess I need a big strong man to show me how.

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