What if we all told girls they were good at math…

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When I was in fifth grade, I announced to my dad that “girls aren’t supposed to be good at math”. I don’t remember exactly what spurred the comment; I think it might have been my denial that “x” couldn’t be ANY number, or maybe I just knew at some level it would tweak him. I do know that my parents will never let me forget the outburst. My academically minded parents were so concerned about social biases that I wasn’t even allowed to have barbies. I may still be scarred from that, but lucky for me, I did accept that “x” could be any number, went straight into advanced math classes, planned to major in Math in college, ended up CS instead, and became one of the growing number of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers.

AAUW just released a report around “Why so few?” (women in STEM careers) that has been getting some buzz, even though the topic has been discussed extensively in the news over the years. The good news is that the number women with the academic and test performance in STEM fields has drastically increased. The bad news is that the gap hasn’t closed yet, and many of those with potential don’t choose STEM careers. The study makes a strong case for lingering cultural biases, and the need for education to be improved to give girls the right environment for learning. It also makes a case for us continuing to encourage the girls we know into these types of careers.

My cousin is a junior at Colorado State, majoring in chemical engineering. She grew up with an epidemiologist and a statistician as parents, and it probably never occurred to her not to be good at science. This girl is going to rock the world – she’s smart, nice, thoughtful… and beautiful. You’d never peg her as an engineer if you believed all the stereotypes. Of course she is already getting internship offers all over the world. She spent last summer in Germany and is spending this summer in Ireland. The opportunity is there. We all just need to spread the word. And the technology industry (as well as many others) would be so much better off if we did…