I attended the Women In Science and Engineering (WISE) Symposium in Columbus, OH (http://www.battelle.org/conferences/wise/). Fantabulous. The keynote speakers -- Dr. Julie Gerberding (President, Merck Vaccines) and Dr. Rita Colwell (Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology) -- were utterly inspiring. They inspired me to extend myself intellectually and, when considering what they have crammed into their lives in order to learn and help others, made me ask, "What can I contribute?" I gotta marinate this question for a while longer.
BUT, what doesn't need further marinating is...a panel discussion about the still-lagging numbers of women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers--for the long term--worried me. The data shows that girls narrow their career choices beginning around 4th grade. Of course, they don't know that they're doing it, but it happens. The situation stems from the fact that girls develop socially earlier than boys. Girls want to emulate what they see other women doing, and build relationships with role models. Therefore, because of their social development, girls rule out careers first based upon gender. "Do I see my mom or another woman doing xyz as a career?" If not, then that's a field that a girl is typically not interested in. The second determining factor is race. "Do I see someone who looks like me doing xyz?" If not, shut that door, too. Scary.
One speaker talked about choosing just one thing in order to make a difference in one's life. It can be a simple thing. We do plenty of reading and coloring/drawing/painting around my house, but my girls need to see me actively discovering new things about the world. So, guess what? Every Monday when I'm home from work it's going to be "Science Day!" We're going to do experiments in the kitchen, or collect bugs outside, or tie a key to a kite and get electrocuted. OK, maybe not that last one. The point is, my girls are going to see me "being a scientist" -- and, maybe one day, they'll be one.