Growing up I was told that I could do anything I wanted. My parents supported the fact that I was adamant about riding a green bicycle, not pink, and that I wanted to keep a bug collection under my bed (that one barely slipped by). Even if it didn’t suit their idea of what was typically appropriate for girls my age, they let me be as tomboyish as I wanted. However, when I rode my green bike to school and brought my bug collection in for show and tell, I was told by my classmates that my favorite color and hobbies were weird and unusual. At my parents’ insistence I refused to change my ways, but from that point on I still felt as if I was an outsider. I was a girl of green in aisles of pink.
In light of the emergence of startups and organizations like GoldieBlox and Girls Who Code, which aim to help girls learn about engineering, technology, and science, people are now looking towards girls as a potential source of change. In recent years, there has been a driving force behind getting young women involved in these historically male-dominated fields. Despite this progress, the disparity between the amount of men and women in math and science-based careers is overwhelming. In a 2013 study conducted by Tracy Chou, a Pintrest engineer, a large sample size showed that only 12.4% of engineers are women. The sad fact is that the real numbers might be even lower than projected. There has also been a slew of allegations against tech companies for sexism, harassment, and character assassination. While this publicity does bring an important issue to light, it makes women feel unwelcome. Therefore, we should start at the source and focus on changing the way both girls and boys see the industry.
If we want to see changes in the numbers of women working in tech, we must first start with altering the traditional perception of how we educate the youth. There is a major consensus today that our key means to change this trend is to start messaging equality at a younger age. GoldieBlox and Girls Who Code, amongst others, are a great start. However, some suggest we should also change curriculum and reading lists to include successful women in science, as well as provide more television and media role models for young women. Hopefully, soon leaders and innovators will make tech more inclusive for girls. And that someday little girls riding green bikes and choosing hobbies not based on what’s “cool” but what they enjoy won’t be the exception, but the rule.
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Photo Credit: Janet McKnight, Flickr