|I remain impressed at the covers that can be achieved with ClipArt|
So, here’s the situation in America at the present moment. Girls and boys, while growing up, are both given to the same proclivities. They play in the mud, they do sports, they want to be scientists when they grow up. Then, at a certain point, societal pressures set in and suddenly there are “boy proclivities” and “girl proclivities” instead of just proclivities.
So, all of a sudden, at age eight, let’s say, a girl is told not to play in the mud. A boy is told not to play house. Suddenly youthful passions are put aside in the face of fitting in.
Gender roles are societal. In fact, “gender” is a wholly made up concept, in contrast to the sex of a child, which is innate and biological. I once had a biology professor who posed to us this question: “Why is pink feminine and blue masculine? Who chose those two colors and why?” Honestly, even (mumble, mumble) years out of college I’ve still never come up with a satisfactory answer. And you know why?
BECAUSE THEY’RE COMPLETELY ARBITRARY.
Pink and blue are completely pulled out of somebody’s ass. It could’ve just as easily been green and yellow. So we could argue all day about gender norms and their role in history and society (no, seriously, we could argue all day about it) but there is at least one that is literally dangerous to the short and long-term security and prosperity of our country. And that’s that math and science is “boy stuff.”
So back to my original premise. Two kids are growing up. Up to age seven or six or, you know, it doesn’t really matter because it’s not a real, quantifiable date, but anyway, they both love science. They admire architecture and engineering and they’re watching TV and they see the labcoats walking around solving crimes and they say, “I want that to be me when I grow up!”
Then they hit that imaginary mark and if it’s a boy, his parents buy him a chemistry set and his teachers encourage him and all that early, baseline stuff puts him on a path to be a world-class engineer. If it’s a girl, though, they get discouraged. They get told that girls should be studying poetry and cooking and should be planning on a liberal arts education. (Actually, the scary truth is they’re probably being encouraged to just be pretty and shut up and find a nice husband, but that’s a darker part of the whole story that I don’t even really want to get into.)
And so she would have to push through all those societal pressures if she wants to persevere and be a scientist anyway. But more likely she’ll be discouraged from such a path. It’s tough to defy such a headwind. And she’ll probably end up majoring in college in one of the more “feminine” subjects. And the proof is in the pudding. Our nation’s STEM (short for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) jobs are somewhere between 3:1 and 10:1 in male to female ratio.
Basically, the reason we have a STEM brain drain in this country is because we’re eliminating 50% of the potential workforce right off the bat. And STEM is what’s going to keep us competitive on the world stage into the 21st century. The keys to our prosperity in the 20th century were coal, steel, and manufacturing. Today they're computers, information, and technology.
Enter the BRAVE NEW GIRLS anthology, curated by Mary Fan and Paige Daniels. This charity anthology’s purpose is twofold. First, all proceeds are being donated to STEM scholarships for women. Second, the book itself features young women protagonists who are all mathematicians, scientists, and engineers. For instance, my story, “The Keys to the Stars” is about a teenage girl in the ‘50s who contacts an alien species thanks to her interests in math, code-breaking, and radio science.
Make sure to check it out when it drops this June! And support women in science!
|Illustration courtesy of Adrian DeFuria|