Microsoft recently released a YouTube video to remind us all that “girls do science”. The video shows several young girls talking about how much they like science and technology. The girls are very enthusiastic about science and what they have achieved so far. The video cites that 7 out of 10 girls are interested in science. Then the girls start to talk about how they think that science is more of a “boy thing.” So, out of those 7 girls that are interested in science, only 2 will go on to pursue science as a career – that was pretty eye-opening for me.
I have degrees in Industrial Engineering and I never saw math, science or technology as “boy things.” My father is a mechanical engineer so engineering just seemed to be a very normal career to me.
When I graduated high school in 1975, my grandfather asked my father if I was going to college. My father replied that I was thinking about pursuing engineering. My grandfather’s reply was in the form of a question, “Will they teach that to a girl?”. My father responded that there is no heavy lifting so it should be fine. That was his attempt at a little joke. My parents fully supported my pursuit of engineering. My grandfather was born in 1899 and I suspected it was just his generation who thought that way. Apparently not. To his credit, my grandfather and I would talk about my job. So while he may have thought it odd, he wasn’t truly opposed to it.
When I was an engineer in a steel mill, some men would admonish me for “taking a job away from a man” (Never mind that engineers were in such demand at the time that virtually no engineer was unemployed.) That was almost 35 years ago but it looks like we’re still not encouraging girls to pursue science.
We need to stop sending the message that any of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines are “for boys.” If you know a young girl that has an interest in science, please encourage her and don’t let her think that it’s a “boy thing.” While it is important that she knows about Albert Einstein, Ben Franklin and Thomas Edison, share with her the accomplishments of some of the women that pursued their love of science and achieved great things as a result:
- Maria Mitchell was America’s first woman astronomer. In 1847, she discovered a comet now known as “Miss Mitchell’s Comet”. She later became the first woman member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Association for the Advancement of Science.
- Marie Curie discovered two elements. She was the first women to win a Nobel Prize in 1903 and was the first person to win a second Nobel in 1911.
- Computer scientist Admiral Grace Murray Hopper was a pretty remarkable lady. She is best known for inventing the first compiler as well as being one of the inventors of COBOL.
- Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to fly into space when she launched on the Vostok 6 mission on June 16, 1963.
Encourage her to pursue science in high school and college and to not be intimidated by “what people think.” With any career, it is important to pursue something that you are passionate about. For girls, sometimes that’s science and that’s a very good thing.
Thanks, Microsoft, for the thought provoking video. I hope some of these girls are in your recruiting class of 2027.