Do all girls need to be advised to study STEM subjects?
I agree that tech is everywhere in our life, but it is not my concern to see fewer women pursuing tech education. Why?
- To work in tech, we don’t need to have tech education, because there are so many things to do in tech without tech education. The tech education is for people who want to work in perfecting the technology itself, while there are so many things to do even after a piece of technology gets perfect. For example, the internet and web technology was in a great standard but only became such a great tool until Google and Facebook were created, where human science (psychology, user-centered design) and business science (marketing, advertising, community engagement) are needed. This in turn created demands for the internet and web technology to be developed further to meet the human and business needs. Therefore, my personal advice to any youths is to pursue any education, but are willing to apply the knowledge to anything that comes up their way later in life. I encourage college students to do a couple of internships in order to get a sense of implementing their raw skills for solving the many problems our society has, through tech or not.
- Having fewer women with tech education may not be the concern in certain societies, unlike in American culture where female engineers are looked down by their male peers. The reason I mentioned my Indonesian background is because back then as a female tech person I received deep appreciation from my male colleagues. Many Indonesian women are the breadwinners of their households, and Indonesia is among the countries who have had a female president. Job role vs. gender is not something commonly discussed among Indonesian youths. To pursue STEM subjects is in fact the most likely advice given to all smart, high-achieving students (until my generation). No one told girls not to pursue Engineering, unlike real cases I’ve heard in the USA myself (until my generation). Therefore, the women in tech campaign is needed in countries like USA in order to reverse the mindset of “tech education is not for girls” and to increase the number of female tech person in order to create proofs that women can be great engineers, too. By the way, Medium suggested a link to an article about Mansplaining while I am writing this. It explains a proof of American culture of looking down upon women of any expertise.
Therefore, if I were a counselor like you, I would advise girls (and boys) to pursue any education that matches their capability (aptitude), personality, and interest. We can advise a girl to pursue a tech education only if she displays the required aptitude and passion, such as a girl who loves trucks or tinkering with electronics. We have so many girls who love drawing and speaking, too, right? But that doesn’t mean drawing and speaking won’t be useful in tech. It is in fact important skills we need in order for tech to enter our life.
There is no need to make studying tech as the default advice for girls. They are the children of the current generation, who were born knowing the ins and outs of this world through the internet and social media, who know so many problems faced by this world, that may cause them difficulties in deciding what to study. What makes them curious and what makes them whole as a human being are the more important questions that hopefully would lead them to choosing the right subjects for them.
I suggest inviting real people who work in tech, with or without tech education, to share their experience. You can start with Facebook career page for the Design team or the Business team and read one by one each job description. May you be able to reach out some people in those teams to share their tech job experience with your students.
Thank you for your question, Jyldyz. Good luck!