I’ve spent the past year talking to a LOT of parents and their kids for Jewelbots.
Scratch that, I’ve spent the last year talking to lots of parents and their daughters.
Because of my network, many of these parents happen to be developers or have technology adjacent roles. The ones that have daughters in our demo always light up when we tell them what we are doing. You can see the recognition in their face when they realize the role of an open source project centered around friendship in their daughter’s lives. It’s been exciting and affirming talking to them.
Every so often, on a rare occasion, when having a conversation with a parent, they say something like this:
“My daughter is really into making and building, I’m happy she’s not into super girly stuff.”
“I try to keep my daughter interested in science and technology, I don’t expose her to anything girly.”
This always left me with a funny feeling, and I chalked it up to the fact that parents were telling me that they wouldn’t expose their daughter to our products, which would leave anyone bummed. However, the other day it dawned on me why these sentiments left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
the opposite of science isn’t girl
the opposite of build isn’t girl
the opposite of make isn’t girl
It’s a journey
I, myself, am all over the spectrum when it comes to traditional gendered interests. Growing up my favorite Disney princess was Belle. I loved her because she sang about books and loving to read, I loved to read too.
I have always really loved expressing myself through what I wear, I live for shopping at vintage stores and finding clothes in dumpsters. I still can get down with playing Barbies with my niece (for some reason her Barbies are always cleaning, super boring).
I went through a phase where I was really into sports. Like, “first time, long time”, ESPN, PTI watching, Bill Simmons loving sports fan. When Brett Favre finally went to the Jets I was over it and the whole emotional roller coaster that is New York sports fandom.
The point is, I chose my interests. Some of them are traditionally “girly” some more traditionally “masculine”. None of them conflict with the fact that I’m an Engineer, or that I love writing code and hacking on hardware.
You’re missing the point
The whole idea behind getting more women into programming is to introduce diversity. The reason why diverse teams create better products is the different backgrounds and experiences they bring to the table.
Bringing diversity to science and technology doesn’t mean that we socialize everyone as a white or asian male. We shouldn’t try to shoe-horn girls in to our own concepts of what the childhood of a scientist looks like.
By saying “forgo girly things for things that will get you interested in engineering” we’re saying “if you want to be girly, you cannot also be a technology creator, an inventor, and a world changer”. We’re teaching girls to change who they are in order to effect change as an adult.
The pink aisle is great, the Lego aisle is great. None of those things affect whether or not your daughter will grow up to be an engineer.
And while we’re at it, admit you played house once or twice and you liked it.
We all can use sometimes to embrace our inner girl. Because being a girl is okay. And being an Engineer is awesome. Being a girly engineer is great and awesome.