Monday, March 9, 2015

Girly Girls: Let Them Be

Let's stop worrying about if she is a tomboy or a girly girl and focus on letting her be...
confident, genuine, happy and inspired to learn.

It's already starting...

"Mom, is pink a stupid color?" Um, what? That is the question my second grade daughter asked me the other day. So, I asked her why she would think that.  She started explaining that a few girls said pinkish colors were stupid and so was looking all fancy and "girly."  I asked her if she liked those colors and looking fancy sometimes. Without skipping a beat, she said, "Yes! Of course I do." Then my youngest daughter, piped in, "I don't!" We know she likes to wear blue and green, playing outside and get dirty. It's interesting, she's so confident acting more like a "boy" (some would call it). Yet, my older daughter is already questioning her choices in colors and clothes because they are more like a "girl."

At the STEAM Studio, we have been creating a balance, for all types of girls through our different programs. One of the clubs we offer: STEAM Club for Girls, is always favorite, it fills up very quickly. In fact, Kansas City Star wrote a fantastic article about us. My hope and dream is that these girls grow up to enter the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But, you know why they come? It's the art and designing piece.

Two startling facts: 
  • "Looking back to 1984, women represented 37 percent of all computer science graduates, and today, that number is 12 percent. Both of these trends are bad for women and minorities, who are at risk of being left out of the best opportunities, and bad for our economy as a whole. It’s well-documented that diversity of thinking breeds creativity, which we sorely need during this time of change." -U.S. News
  • "Government efforts to entice female students into science and engineering courses have failed. Data from UCAS reveals 87 per cent of new computer science undergraduates and 85 per cent of new engineering students are male." - Chris Phillips, Information and Research Director

What's going on? Why is it still difficult to encourage girls to get excited about STEM? Because they need the "A", from STEM to STEAM. Girls enjoy expressing themselves, being social (in many different ways). Many enjoy crafts, building and making things. Yet, often STEM programs are developed and the curriculum is written by men. Perhaps, these men have the best intentions, but do they know what it's like to be a girl?

Technology, science, engineering and math can be scary to both sexes, but rarely do we see companies and developers catering to the needs and wants of girls. Sometimes when companies do come out with a product which could encourage and inspire girls into these areas at a young age, they are slammed. Remember the "Lego Friends" controversy. People were coming from all angles, ridiculing Lego for making it so "pink" and "pretty." SO WHAT? There are many girls who would love to build a pink cafe out of legos and guess what? They can now!  I have one daughter who enjoys the Lego Friends series and my other daughter continues to play with her brother's Star Wars and action heros legos. Does that mean one is right and the other is wrong?

Of course not.

I enjoy dressing up for work. I will wear high heels until my feet give out. Working out is an event I look forward to everyday. Does that make me materialistic? Image conscious?

Of course not.

I buy and wear dresses in feminine colors, because I like them, not trying to make a statement. High heels usually come in fun and unusual styles, which interest me. If I didn't work out I would go crazy. I do it because it allows me to release stress and try to remain as healthy as I can. I'm a girly girl who teaches science and technology courses in higher education. I am a girly girl who geeks out over learning how things work and experimenting. What I wear and what colors I like don't define if I am interested in science, technology, math or engineering. My brain decides that.

When did pink become stupid? When did being a "girly girl" become bad? You know what encourages girls to enter STEM careers? Confidence, motivation, encouragement, hard work and the opportunity to do so, not their favorite color or what they wear.  It's important to offer activities which reach out to all girls, those who want to engage in designing and engineering more crafty products and those who would rather dig in the dirt or learn how to code. Those interests even overlap,so why not offer it all? What is not encouraging is telling a girl she needs to be less girly or less boyish.  Let's not make it a matter of looks or colors, but a matter of brains and what they would like to do with those brains.

I've seen the laughs, the smiles, the risk taking and the determination when working on the projects related to STEAM through the eyes of our future women.  Therefore, I will continue to research, talk with girls and find ways to promote our STEAM programs for them all. I know it's important; as a science and technology educator, as a woman, as a mom, and as a girly girl. 

It's a subject we need to deal with. 
You can bet I will put on my big girl panties and deal with it, 
who cares if they are pink or blue?

May we raise up girls who feel strong. Listen to this beautiful song by the Celtic Women, who sing "You Raise Me Up". 

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