By Tee Schneider
STEM: Ever heard of it? There is this thing we’re guilty of. And by “we” I mean us women. And by guilty I mean really, really guilty. Guilty like you might as well take off your shoes and get back in the kitchen guilty. I’m not saying all of us are doing it all the time but I am say we’re doing it enough that we’re creating a reality that I promise you, you won’t like. I’m guilty and I’m willing to bet that in some small way, you are too.
Let me just start by asking a few simple questions:
- Ladies, when’s the last time you programmed the remote control?
- When’s the last time you hooked up your surround sound?
- How did you choose your smartphone? Did you research it, figure out the feature set, analyse the specs and make an informed decision?
- Could you tell me why you chose the one you chose in detail?
- Have you ever swapped out your own video card?
- Set up your own home network?
- Figured out what your TV can actually do?
- Played a video or console game… seriously?
- Read Wired?
- When’s the last time you thought to yourself, (or heard a woman in your life utter), that’s husband work, or, I’m so useless at all that, or Hmm? I have no idea what you just said, with that knowing chuckle. Meryl downright giggled at this Oscars this past week exclaiming, I’ve never tweeted before!
Cute right? Why not! Let the husbands, sons, brothers and boyfriends in our lives figure this stuff out so we can get on to the important work. Right? But here’s the thing about that that’s really, really serious. Ever heard of STEM fields? STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
Forbes put out an article back in 2012 that said this:
A 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Commerce found only one in seven engineers is female. Additionally, women have seen no employment growth in STEM jobs since 2000.
No matter where you turn, the stats are grim. Today, women hold only 27 percent of all computer science jobs, and that number isn’t growing. This is unsurprising when we take into account how many women are actually studying computer science in college; less than 20 percent of bachelor’s degrees in computer science go to women, even though female graduates hold 60 percent of all bachelor’s degrees. You can read the full article here.
If you poke around a bit, you’ll find that there hasn’t been significant change in past couple of years either. Theories as to why? Everything from lack of exposure at young ages to inequities in pay structure. Everything from absence of female role models to feelings of being unwelcome or uncomfortable in the environments. Many findings suggest that even women who complete advanced degrees with the intention to enter these fields often end up leaving. Theories as to why? From what I can tell this is usually attributed to women making the decision to have children. Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know. But there is one thing that sticks with me and we can actually do something about it. Check this out:
If you asked my 9-year-old niece what she wants to be when she grows up, she would quickly answer that she wants to be a writer or teacher. If you asked my 7-year-old nephew what he wants to be when he grows up, he would proudly tell you that he wants to be a scientist or an engineer. These answers make sense considering that my niece loves reading books and taking care of her American Girl doll while my nephew enjoys looking up science experiments and making Coke bottles explode with Mentos.
By the way, this excerpt is from an article written by Celia Islam for HuffPost’s Girls In STEMMentorship Program. She is a senior in high school. You can check out the full article here. She’s gifted.
Basically, Celia (among many others), proposes that the fundamental reason we don’t show up in these fields is because we are socialized to believe that it’s just not in our lane. You know what? I think she’s right. I think we’re guilty of perpetuating this every day in the smallest and seemingly insignificant ways.
Celia contends that we need to start training our kids to think differently as early as pre-K. This is the one thing I disagree with. Pre-K is too late. I think we need to start earlier… at the beginning…at home. Don’t wait until Daddy gets home to fix the remote! Do it yourself. (That’s more for me than for you by the way). Ladies, every time we suggest we can’t, that we’re not interested, that it’s not our thing, that men are just better at that sort of thing, we’re sending a big message.
I know I’ve said this before but when we choose to absent ourselves from conversations, we choose to absent ourselves from having a real voice. These fields are the driving force behind our society at all levels. Technology and information are so pervasive that we can’t really even begin to determine what part of the GDP they play. It’s all too insidious. And yet, when we lazily send this message, we relegate ourselves to the kids table. Sure we can interrupt the grown-up conversation from time to time to ask for a glass of milk or even to say how much we love our new pink camera phone but that’s not a voice. That’s not influence. I know there are some pretty big shoulders at the grown-up table. It’s intimidating and it’s easy to feel stupid but it’s better to feel stupid than to be ignorant.
So… guys, if you could just scooch over a bit and make room for a few chairs here, we’ve got some work to do. Together. Let’s hook up. We got this.
Hey, if you have some young ladies in your life and you think there’s something to all this, check out this Adam Mordecai gem from Upworthy and while you’re at it, subscribe to our mailing list and get the moo mailed straight to you!
Happy International Women’s Day!