Instead Of Taking Your Daughters To Work, Introduce Them To Technology

Your cubicle, email inbox, and the corporate lunchroom are not that inspiring. Why not try a fresh (and more engaging) approach to Taking Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day?

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]

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  • MelissaBessey

    Great article, as a female work-from-home journalist I'm showing my daughters technology from age 0 and it's paid off vastly for my eldest who is a 6yr old blogger! This is her blog: =) 

  • Mike Camplin

    I'd propose combining the traditional day at work activity with one or more of the suggestions you've proposed.  Letting your children feel connected with the activity, place, and people that occupy such a big portion of your life helps them visualize the things you likely discuss once you get home.  It may not feel inspiring to you, but to your children it can be a thriling taste of being an adult.

  • tjanderson

    If your job/office isn't so stimulating as to inspire young women, perhaps you could find others (men or women) doing work that you think your daughter would find inspiring (hint: it helps if you already know where her interests might border/overlap with science/technology/engineering). Reach out to those individuals (i.e. professors doing research at a nearby college) and see if you can arange a tour/shadow. We don't live in a world of trades passed from generation to generation any more. There is no shame in looking to others to inspire/mentor your children. It takes a village. IMO parents need to invite the type of people into their village that influences, inspire, and teach them the things they need in order to fulfil their dreams. Stop worrying so much about the "bad influences" that they are meeting at school, if you introduce them to good influences that hold their interest, they will make the right choice for them. The bad influences will always be there and you will not; they need to learn to make the right choice but if you don't give them options...

  • Pauline Weger

    Nice article, Adrian. 
    I've come across innovative tech-based companies that are simplifying and modernizing traditional ways of doing things. In Utah, there are a number of these companies. They're changing how we conduct research (Qualtrics), produce exec dashboards (Domo) and track projects (AtTask). And, based on my calls, these companies attract sharp, young people. This wave of simple + modern + intuitive will move us forward. Great for girls to be part of this change.  {I'm in not promoting Utah, but using it as an example.}

  • Terriehyichan

    Thanks for this article! I would just like to point out that the STEM movement is gaining some traction, thanks to RISD's President John Maeda, into the STEAM movement (Science, Technology, Engineering, ART, and Math).

  • Sue Way

    Predictions are that there will be almost 1 million unfilled IT jobs by 2018 in the US. These won't be filled by outsourcing. There is incredible opportunity in the IT field, and young women need to be encouraged to enter this well-paying career field. 

  • Pat Lee

    Learn about women working today in manufacturing.  View the winners of the 2013 Step Ahead awards recently presented to 122 women by The Manufacturing Institute. These women are actively engaged in STEM related work. They range from welders to CEOs, from large companies and small, and they come in all ages and ethnicities.  Pretty inspiring and they demonstrate all kinds of career possibilities.  Go to: http://www.themanufacturingins...

  • Eve C

    Great points! Girls need to see the innovation that is present in the industry; that they can contribute and not just 'fit in'.

  • RMGH

    I hate to burst everyone's bubble, but many of these career tracks simply DON'T PAY.  They used to, but they don't anymore.  I left my STEM field voluntarily because I saw no future.  I saw more and more outsourcing, more and more importation of cheap labor from abroad.  There is literally an ENDLESS supply of people with high tech skills from third world countries.  Its an unending well of supply with limited demand.  Employers LOVE it but for the rest of us, its a mess.  Having invested many years in extensive educations that are not easily transferable to other fields its a good way to be ruined financially.  

    You need to do the homework to make sure that the field you are interested can't easily be outsourced, insourced and that the salaries are solid and will continue to be that way.  Employers and academics are clanging the STEM shortage bell loud and long to be sue that there this limitless supply of cheap labor goes on forever.  But its a myth. There are too many thousands of unemployed scientists, engineers, programmers, IT specialists for there to be any real shortage.  Also, for many of these fields, salaries are flat or/and declining. 

  • Randall Miller

     While it is true that companies are outsourcing their  development needs, not all the tech jobs are going abroad.  companies like Ruralogic in Ohio are working to provide those needed technology solutions right here in the USA

  • Brion

    Good point (I'm a Manufacturing Engineer major in the UK) and I think
    you're right, I think it's due to how well established industry sectors
    are already, and the skills that businesses need, are easily filled. 

    What I think should happen is governments should promote research. Research is not only important technologically, to society, but can also simultaneously inspire business ideas - finding new skills & knowledge that isn't easily obtained through standard education alone.

  • RMGH

    But who is going to do the research?  Many people in R&D spend years in the educational pipeline only to find that what they thought was their ticket to a secure future is not there.  After a loooong education - people are hungry for money and good-paying jobs.  They often have that rug pulled right out from under them. Ask anyone in biotech how well research worked for them... Those that are working are grossly underpaid, others have been let go after 10 years because they are too expensive.  12-15 years of post-graduated education thrown into the trash.  Commoditization is happening across the board.  What is working today is gone tomorrow. 

  • Winski

    Outstanding idea... Over the years and on various continents where I worked I was lucky enough to work with some outrageously smart women in tech. I've always thought that women have a different, unique perspective on how tech touches us as humans and bought something to the field that enriched us all. The more the merrier... Smart folks come in all shapes and sizes... Let's just make more of them !!!