Many years ago, when I was a senior in high school, a classmate told me he was planning to study engineering in college. I said, "What’s that?" As a 17-year-old middle-class girl who had access to education, sports, and plenty of extracurricular activities, I had no idea what an engineer did. It wasn’t until I entered college that I encountered computer science classes and ultimately entered the workforce in tech as a software developer.
It’s well documented that girls need more exposure to tech and science careers—they also need more female role models. Why is it that we can easily name legends such as Gates, Jobs, Dell, and Zuckerberg for their technical contributions? Yet most people cannot name the woman who saved millions of lives by inventing Kevlar (Stephanie Kwolek). Or the Nobel Laureate who invented radioimmunoassay (RIA) testing that revolutionized medical research (Rosalyn S. Yalow). Or the woman who founded the first word processing company, Redactron, in 1969 (Evelyn Berezin).
These women deserve to be widely known for their significant contributions. But most important, our daughters need female role models.
This Thursday marks the 20th anniversary of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. No doubt, it is a fantastic initiative. However, in 2013 many freelancers and entrepreneurs work from home. And many employees don’t work in offices anymore.
For workers who remain in office environments, it seems that exposing our kids to the drudgery of cubicles, mind-numbing meetings, and dull cafeteria food is not very inspiring.
Besides, many coveted tech jobs that exist today—for example, in social media—weren’t even conceived of a decade ago. Our kids won’t be doing same jobs anyway.
Although future jobs will continue to change, one thing is for sure: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) will be pervasive in everything we do. So rather than going to work, why don’t you set aside a day and take your daughter to tech? Here are a few ideas to swap for hauling your kids to your desk:
Learn about women in tech and science: WITI (Women in Technology International) is sponsoring a social media scavenger hunt for high school girls to learn about female role models. In this contest, girls can name their favorite role model, grab fun badges such as "I’m a WITI girl" (love the pun), and create Pinterest boards with their favorite women in tech and science. Winners will get free tickets to meet inspirational women in tech and science at the annual WITI Hall of Fame Ceremony in June and other prizes.
Visit a tech or science museum: If you're in the Bay area, the Exploratorium in San Francisco just reopened on Pier 15 with 150 new exhibits.
Join the Worldwide #WITI Wave celebration: Let’s show our kids that women work in tech and science careers around the world by posting your video to the WITI Wave page or tweeting your support for women in tech at #WITIWave.
Read about important women in STEM careers at the 2013 Women’s History Month website. STEM is the focus in 2013.
Sign your kids up for a technology or science summer camp such as iD Tech Camps held at many U.S. universities.
Set aside time to help them participate in science events such as Google’s Science Fair.
Let’s share technology and science careers with our daughters and sons and let them experience the possibilities before it’s too late.
Have other fun ideas for helping our kids learn about STEM careers? Tell us about it in the comments.
[Image: Flickr user D. Sharon Pruitt]