Throughout my childhood, I remember my parents being nothing but encouraging of what I wanted to pursue. If I wanted to be a teacher, that was great, and if I changed my mind and wanted to work in a lab, that was great too.
As I began to grow older, I became increasingly aware of the world I lived in. I began to notice certain things in society that only widened the gap between girls and science.
The first place I began to notice the difference was in the toys that are made for boys and girls. The toy sets that are geared toward girls usually focus on domestic responsibilities, like taking care of children, cooking and cleaning. However, boys usually have sets that involve engineering and science.
It is important to recognize that there is nothing wrong with either of these types of toys. The problem stems from how they’re advertised and who they’re advertised to. It shouldn’t be only the boys that get chemistry sets and lab coats, and girls shouldn’t be the only ones with a play kitchen and dolls.
Children should be encouraged to play with whatever toys they are drawn to, despite gender. If toys became more gender neutral, then children would be provided with a chance to explore their interests at an earlier age.
I also began to notice, and still notice to this day, that nerdy girls in movies are often portrayed as ugly and unpopular. Their faces are often covered in zits and they wear odd clothes and thick, unflattering glasses.
On the flipside, nerdy guys are becoming sought after and usually triumph in the end of their movies. The girls can triumph in the end too, as long as they agree to a massive makeover and overhaul of their entire wardrobe.
Take, for instance, one of my favorite examples: Velma and Daphne from Scooby-Doo. Velma is often shown as the smart yet unattractive girl of the group while Daphne is given the “looks” but always ends up needing to be saved.
In Hollywood, it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of room for a girl who wants to be smart and pretty at the same time. Even with the influences of toy companies and the media, I believe that girls can easily be encouraged to pursue science and technology careers.
It is important to not only teach of Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, but to also teach children about Marie Curie, Dorothy Hodgkin and many other women who have contributed to their respective fields of science and technology throughout history.
The distance between girls and science and technology definitely won’t be closed in a day, but if we continue to push education in all areas to every child, instead of exclusively boys or exclusively girls, we can show children that they have the opportunity to work in whatever field they choose.