Let’s encourage girls to shoot for the stars


Parenting / Monday, April 23rd, 2018

I recently read an article about why the first person to step on Mars should be a woman.

“And while it wouldn’t make up for all the gender injustice in the world, it would be a damn good start. It would make a statement to the planet – not to mention possible life on other planets – that women are as deserving of stardust as men,” wrote Guardian columnist Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett.

My inner feminist did a little fist pump when I read that, not only because I’m all about empowering women to succeed in male-dominated fields, but because my daughter wants to be an astronaut. Actually, according to her, she already is one.

“Every night I go to space in a rocket,” she tells me. Her duvet set is space-themed, covered with rockets, stars and planets. It’s very blue, very much aimed at little boys, and she loves it. It’s her “space bed,” she says. Her favourite pajamas feature a cat wearing a space suit – a catstronaut, if you will – and the words ‘You are out of this world’.

She’s a toddler, so her understanding of the vastness and complexity of space is pretty much non-existent. She knows that space is up, and pretty big, and that the moon lives there, but that’s kind of it. At two-years-old, all she needs are space sheets and space cats to convince her that that she can shoot for the stars. There’s something wonderful about that, because it takes a lot more than that to become a successful female working in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

A 2014 report showed that women make up only 9% of those working in non-medical science. Nasa’s gender imbalance is minor in comparison – 30% of its staff is female – it’s still a long way from equality. Even in 2018, women still face barriers to entering STEM disciplines, thanks to stereotypes about girls not being as interested in technology or math that start in school – or even earlier.

Toys that encourage practical, hands-on play, such as building sets, are often marketed to boys, while girls are encouraged to play with toys that invite them to nurture, like dolls. If you give a girl a some K-NEX she’ll build the shit out of a rocket, but if you never give her those interlocking plastic gears, she won’t know what she’s missing.

There’s a part of me that feels a bit uncomfortable going all pro-STEM, since I’m hardly an ideal role model for my daughter. I never showed much enthusiasm for math or science when I was at school – though my grades in those subjects were good – and chose to major in English at uni. I wanted to work in a publishing house and read novels all day – pretty much as far from science as you can get.

I guess I technically work in technology now, though digital content design is kind of ‘soft’ technology, in the same way that sociology is a ‘soft’ science. That’s not to knock sociology – I minored in sociology as an undergrad and I think it’s incredibly interesting – but…well, it’s not rocket science, is it?

My daughter’s astronaut dreams may be short lived. By the time she turns three, she may want to be an acrobat or something. Who knows? Kids are weird. I’m not going to pressure her to go down the STEM route, especially since I didn’t really choose it for myself, but I don’t want her to be limited by anyone’s expectations. I hope that by the time she’s old enough to make a choice about her career – one that’s based upon something more than what’s on her duvet cover – things may have changed. Women may have stepped foot on Mars, proving to girls all over the world that they can aim higher than many of us have ever dared imagine.

Woman in a space suit

3 Little Buttons
The Pramshed

7 Replies to “Let’s encourage girls to shoot for the stars”

  1. Indeed, why shouldn’t our daughters have all the same opportunities open to them as our sons? Whatever Kara chooses to do in life, she will have our full support and hopefully she will have the same range of options as her brothers. Our company does a lot of work supporting STEM in local schools and it’s always gratifying to see that a large proportion of the kids who come on visits are girls. #dreamteam

  2. Oh gosh yes! This is so empowering and I do think that more needs to be done to encourage ‘everyone’ rather than gender specifics into exploring different fields. I love that your little one goes into space each night! That’s just fab. Thanks for joining us for the #DreamTeam linky xx

  3. Oh yes yes yes! I’m a STEM’r, I have a degree in Biology but to be honest, I think it’s more about making sure girls can ask the right questions in life rather than making sure they choose STEM subjects. It’s knowing that they can ask Why & How and finding out how they can find the answers. Loved this. Thanks for linking up again #fortheloveofBLOG x

  4. Oh my goodness yes – how awesome would it be if it WAS a woman who was the first person to step on Mars! That idea has got my quite excited! It’s so easy to push our preconceptions about what boys and girls like onto our children, even though we really try not to (I know that I automatically go to the Pink aisle in the shop when I’m shopping for my girls…). It’s tough when we are fighting against our own upbringings (I also had good grades in Maths and Science, but chose to pursue English and the Humanities) and trying to reevaluate what being a girl / boy means. But I think every generation is chipping away at these stereotypes and hopefully they will soon be banished to the history books.

    And congratulations because someone loved this post so much, that they added it to the BlogCrush linky! Feel free to collect your “I’ve been featured” blog badge 🙂 #blogcrush

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