2018 Women in Engineering Empowerment Essay – Richelle Jones

What do you think can be done to improve representation of women in STEM fields?

Improved representation of women In science, technology, engineering and engineering relatedfields will not happen until we have a culture change. Men have to change the way they think about women. Women have to change the way they think about themselves.

In many cases women are thought of as home makers and sex objects. We give girls gifts like tea sets, Barbie doll dream homes, kitchen sets and dolls. Men and boys like to have a pretty girl on a date as a symbol and not because of her ability to think and solve problems. When it comes to raising our sons compared to raising our daughters, we give boys toys and gifts that they can put together and make work. Things that stimulate thinking. Boys get gifts like train sets, remote control cars, air planes and similar things that they build and operate. The gifts that boys receive stimulate and encourage boys to wonder how things work and what makes a thing work. Similar to the way scientist and engineers think. We train our boys to think like engineers at a very young age while we teach our girls how not to think like an engineer. In general there is no science to changing a Barbie dolls cloths or pouring an imaginary cup of tea.

Parents and educators have to change the way they interact with young girls and set higher expectations. parents should enroll their daughters In STEM courses and workshops at the preschool and elementary school level. parents should explore nature with their children but especially their daughters to encourage the interest in natural science. Instead of giving girls dolls to play with during her youth give her a calculator, a computer or other fun devices that promote STEM learning. Girls can build remote control cars and airplanes. Girls can go fishing with her dad. These are things that if done with a sister or daughter at a young age would stimulate a natural interest in STEM topics. A girl would be less intimidated by these things when they are encountered at school. A girl would learn to look a boys as learning partners at an early age and not a potential date or boyfriend.

 Children have demonstrated, both boys and girls that they have the intelligence to build, learn and create. parents have to encourage STEM learning and in some cases maybe the parents need basic STEM training. almost all activities that we do with our children and relate to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. For example when parents take their children for a walk to the park. This is an opportunity to discuss for example the sun and how photosynthesis works, in a kid friendly way. Parents seem to think that only boys like bugs. While walking to the park parents could discuss with the girls the different types of insects and other Iife forms that one encounters while traveling to the park. Parents could explain how the different life forms contribute to the world. While driving how from an evening event when the moon and stars are out, parents could use this opportunity to explain basics aspects of astronomy to young girls.

Dads play a major roll when it comes to raising a confident girls who have the potential to become engineers, scientists or doctors. It makes me recall that at my gym Lifetime Fitness they have a yearly daddy daughter dance. All of the little girls dress up like little princess. An event could be created where the father and daughter could still spend quality time together but it could be changed to a father Daughter STEM event. It would involve the father and daughter doing STEM related activities together. Instead of the daughters explore together. It could be “Dora the Explorer” exploring with her dad. This would be much more entertaining and educational. After all what are we really teaching our daughters at Daddy Daughter dance? How to stand next to a boy and look pretty?

Encouraging young girls to think about how things work and what makes things work sets the foundation for thinking like a scientists and/or engineer. Encouraging to act in ways that society has deemed as being the way a girl should act discourages girls from having that natural curiosity and confidence needed to succed in science, technology, engineering or engineering related fields. Limits must be removed and society norms must change as it relates belief about what girls can learn and accomplish.