Women & Girls in STEM (at my house)
My daughter runs in the house, drops her backpack and shouts “How many followers do you have now?” as she enters the room. She then proceeds to pull out the latest book on space from the library and get completely absorbed. Once she has had her fill of space she may head to the basement to work in her maker’s space. Even though she has art supplies down there, she will get pretty mad if someone mistakenly refers to it as an art studio. On weekends you are likely to find her signed up for a STEM class run by the local Girl Scouts and she is waiting for the day she is old enough for robotics club.
I am struck by her relationship with Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics, especially when I compare her to myself at her age. When I was 8 it was 1981. We had just gotten out first home computer (a Texas Instruments 99/4A) with a greenscreen, and I learned to do some coding in BASIC and LOGO. I was lucky that my father was into technology and encouraged me to play and break things. I did take a few computer related classes growing up, but I was often the only girl in the room.
I loved computers and coding, and in about 7th or 8th grade when I got a modem and learned about Electronic Bulletin Board Systems — I had my first experiences with social media (although it did not get that name until much later.) I can remember old school gaming magazines with thousands of lines of code in basic that if you typed it all into your computer you could recreate the game yourself. These were my glory days. I was a born geek.
Somehow, I never imagined myself working with technology. I had a natural inclination, I was a great problem solver and I loved it….but when I thought about what I would do with the rest of my life I gravitated towards the helping professions. I am really glad that I did — I learned some amazing things about life working as a Social Worker for many years, and it is that experience that continues to inform my work today in #HealthIT. I do however wonder if I would have made the same choices in life if I had been born in 2007 instead of 1973. Lucky for me I was able to make a career shift in 2008 that led me back to my first love.
Last night my daughter asked me about the first Girl Scouts and why they played basketball behind a curtain. I explained that at the time some people thought it wasn’t ok for girls to do sports and my daughter said “why didn’t they just tell them it was ok.” I thought about it for a minute. “At the time, they didn’t want to change the way the whole world worked, at first they just wanted to play some basketball. Then, after they played basketball for a while, people started to talk about it and realized it was ok.”
My spunky, strong willed daughter responded “I don’t get it. What was the big deal.”
I hope she keeps that attitude. As much as it makes my life hard right now, I hope that she always looks at her hopes and dreams as things she can run after at full steam with all the tools in her arsenal.
My daughter tells me she is going to be an inventor. She has a love for STEM that blows me out of the water. Knowing that she lives in a world where she is surrounded by tech every day and where there are women as role models in every sector of STEM gives me hope. She will see the bright & successful women ahead of her and know that nothing is out of her reach.