For a girl.
A few years ago, my sister got me a big moon night light that goes through the cycles of the moon. I loved it and it still hangs on my wall. When I got pregnant, I knew my baby’s room would be space themed. I ordered one of those big moon night lights for my baby and started planning. When I found out I was having a girl, I kept on planning for that space room.
I was making pillows and wall hangings with space-themed fabric. At the fabric store, the clerk that cut my fabric asked what project I was working on. I told her about the space room and she thought it was really unique. I told her I was excited to see my daughter enjoy the room.
“Oh,” she said. “For a girl?”
My husband’s co-workers were throwing him a surprise celebration and mini-baby shower. In their incognito planning, they were collecting intel from him about our plans for the baby. A coworker casually asked him what our theme was for the nursery. He excitedly told her about the space theme and that maybe our daughter would one day work for NASA.
“Oh,” she said. “For a girl?”
It went on like this (and still does today as our daughter is almost one). When did everyone get together and decide that space and science were for baby boys and not for baby girls? Why wasn’t I invited to that meeting? I can tell you we would’ve arrived at a different outcome had I been there.
What we say to our girls matters.
Our girls are smart. We know that. They pick up on our messages early, even if we don’t realize what message we’re sending. Up until age 12, 66% of girls are interested in computing; somewhere from age 13-17, that drops to 32%. Even worse, that dwindles to 4% by the time they’re college freshmen.
“Since 2001, number of women earning certificates or degrees in computing in Ohio has been on the decline while those numbers have continued to grow for men, to the tune of over 3:1.
Since 2001, the number of women earning a certificate or degree in engineering in Ohio has grown, but is still nearly 4x less than that of men.” – Change the Equation
When someone asks, “For a girl?”, what they’re doing is making a statement that a space room (or trucks, or computers, or contact sports, etc.) aren’t for girls. Stereotyping and bias against women in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields are cited as major reasons that girls lose interest.
Lucky for us, moms and dads have a much greater impact on self-concept in the early years because we’re the most important people in our girls’ lives. We can counteract this messaging with positive messages of our own. The future success of our girls depends on it.
The STEM fields are desperate for our girls.
Currently, there is around 1 job opening for every 3.6 job seekers. In the STEM fields, there are around 2 job openings for every 1 job seeker. There simply aren’t enough people with the right education to fill all of the openings. In Ohio alone, STEM jobs are projected to grow 15% by 2024, outpacing non-STEM jobs by 6%.
This is important for all of our children, but especially for our girls. While women hold just 25% of STEM jobs nationwide, those STEM jobs are likely to pay them 33% more than other jobs. Females and minorities make up more than half of Ohio’s population, steering them toward STEM fields could pay off big time for our economy.
Change is happening.
We’re not in this alone. There are lots of organizations and businesses changing the culture. Some of my favorites include:
- Girls Who Code is a national organization that teaches young girls to solve world problems through coding.
- The Children’s Place just released t-shirts for girls that say things like “girls can do it all”, “girls will change the world”, and (my fave) “girls rule the galaxy”.
- While I was pregnant, my husband pre-ordered a book called “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls” that tells the stories of inspiring women like Jane Goodall, Frida Kahlo, and Venus & Serena Williams.
- Hidden Figures, the story of African American female mathematicians working for NASA, was a huge box office hit and a Best Picture nominee at the Oscars!
The next time someone asks you, “For a girl?”, you can tell them, “Of course!”.