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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Girl Power

It's pretty good to be a woman in America. I'm sure my female readers would beg to differ, and it's true that there is still rampant inequality and prejudice toward women. Women are overlooked for jobs, paid less than their male counterparts, and frequently deal with sexual harassment. They are criticized by one side for having a career and by the other for stooping to the stereotypical role of wife and mother. They are expected to do everything a man can do, only to do it backwards and wearing heels. But let's be realistic. Compared to most women around the world, American women are living the high life. I mean, there are still cultures where women are treated more as currency than as human beings.

Yes, it's true. Young girls in the USA can grow up to be electrical engineers, computer scientists, and applied mathematicians. The problem is, well, most of them don't. For whatever reason, little girls want to be Britney Spears or Paris Hilton. If that sad fact doesn't wake people up, I don't know what will. When we worry about how our nation can compete with the growing economies of China and India, most of us happily ignore the elephant in the room- that the most obvious and effective solution is to inspire more than 51% of our nation's children to pick up a calculus textbook and put down the Barbie doll.

Thankfully for the future of the world, there are organizations devoted to doing just that. Since 1950, the Society for Women Engineers has made it their mission to show young girls that careers in science and mathematics are not just for the guys. The host programs from kindergarten through college, and from coast to coast. Krystal Grube, an SWE representative says of an upcoming event in Minnesota,

On June 3rd, hundreds of girls in St. Paul, Minnesota will attend an event hosted by SWE called, “Wow! That’s Engineering!” Through hands-on activities, girls will learn how solar power works, the wonders of deep sea diving, and even develop their own lip-gloss. Most importantly, they’ll realize that engineering is not just about working behind a computer; it’s about making a difference in the world.

There has never been a better time for the next Marie Curie or Emmy Noether to show the world that women can not only compete with men in these subjects, but with the right touch of genius and self-confidence, can leave them in the dust.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

I thank my lucky stars I was not born in Afghanistan or some other similarly misogynistic culture. But of course, there is still plenty of work to do here to eradicate misogyny and sexism. I've had a relatively easy time of it as a woman in science (only a few strange comments when I was pregnant, and then I am sometimes mistaken for a secretary), but for some true horror stories, you should read Absinthe's blog. Her story makes me aware how fortunate I have been even compared to my American sisters-in-science.