A Problem For Our Daughters

On a recent drive to school, my 6-year-old daughter told me that she wants to be a scientist when she’s older. Of course I thought that was great, but then I became a little sad.

Don’t get me wrong here, my kid’s love of science is a wonderful thing — and as a kindergartner, she pretty good at math.

Not bad for a kindergartner

Not bad for a kindergartner

But sadly, America simply isn’t doing the greatest job when it comes to engaging our kids in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).Well-meaning friends and family members keep giving my daughter dolls because that’s what little girls are “traditionally” interested in. There’s nothing wrong with dolls, but they just aren’t her thing. She loves computers, but a whopping  90% of American high schools do not offer computer science courses. If that’s the case, it certainly doesn’t take a genius to realize that elementary schools aren’t teaching computer science, either.

Not to mention, women are still underrepresented in STEM fields. Only 39 percent of chemists and maternal scientists are female. Those percentages become even less for female engineers. Sure, it’s cool now for a kindergartner to say she wants to be a scientist, but what happens when she gets older and notices that there are so few grown women in those fields? Will she persist? Or will she move on to something completely different?

I don’t have the answers to those questions, but as her dad, I understand my role in doing whatever I can to keep her passion for STEM alive.

Thankfully the good folks at Intel sent her a HP Pavilion 15.6 laptop with a touchscreen as an introduction to computing, and she absolutely loves it.

Time to put those STEM skills to work

Time to put those STEM skills to work

It’s one thing to play video games on a tablet (something that both of my daughters like to do, by the way), but it’s another thing to let our kids use an actual computer to work and play.

For example, she’s learning how to write now (that’s how kids roll in kindergarten), but I want her to learn how to type as well. So far so good.

The cool thing about this laptop is she can touch it like she would a tablet (as she did when she put the cursor on the screen) and she’s also becoming familiar with the location of the numbers and letters on a traditional keyboard in the process. It’s becoming even more fun for her to work on her daily math problems because she’s also discovering how to “write like daddy” (aka, type).

If you’re a parent with a kid who loves technology, I highly recommend this computer to get them started. It has a beautiful touchscreen and a powerful Intel i7 processor that’s perfect for entertainment, gaming, and doin’ work. Not to mention, it doesn’t cost thousands of dollars. It’s available at Walmart for under $700.

And if you specifically happen to have a daughter who loves STEM, I hope you do as much as you can to keep her excited about it. Not only can they become scientists, engineers, or computer programmers — but when they’re older they can inspire other young girls to do the same.

In 2017 and beyond, let’s send a message to our girls that “male-dominated professions” won’t exist much longer because of them.

And while I’m at it, here’s to hoping that the only type of problems I give my daughters are of the mathematical variety.

This post is sponsored by Intel.

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Disclosure: Intel provided me with the HP Pavillon for review and all opinions about the device are my own.

 

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Comments

  1. says

    In your email I saw your comment about people shoving dolls in your daughter’s face. My mother in law got my daughter a doll and I was upset at first. Now what I do is I put the doll in “precarious” situations and she has to “rescue” her doll. So, she has to climb, jump or crawl to get it. I feel that this is teaching her that she can still play with dolls but that she is also not weak and can be strong. She can he the hero! She can save the day! She can keep her doll safe instead of just drinking tea with it.
    Timothy Myers recently posted..Reach Your Customers Where They AreMy Profile

    • Jackie says

      That is a great idea. It not only allows her to show the “little girl” side but the “scientist” aspect.

  2. says

    As a female math professor, I love that you’re encouraging your daughter!! I think the biggest hurdle I’ve seen in teaching college students is the mental block that kids who grow up in our school system have with a) thinking it’s ok to struggle in math because it’s always “hard” and b) it being considered normal for girls to be “bad” at math. I personally think that encouraging kids to see math as a puzzle and possible for anyone is the best tool we have to fight our society’s view of math and help kids be ready for higher level math and science classes! And you can’t start too young!!

  3. Donovan says

    You’re doing it right dad. I’m a 43 yo single dad who has raised his daughter on his own for the last 8 years since her mom passed.

    In today’s world there are so many uncertainties, so much that our country seems to want to stifle in regards to roles of women, and with the typical lesser class citizen mentality of the ignorant in our country. She should always know that no matter what, if she can imagine it, she can make it reality with enough work and creativity.

    So kudos to you, and my best wishes to you and your babygirl.

    • says

      And kudos and best wishes to you. Being a single parent is a difficult job that can be even more difficult when your child is the opposite gender, and you have no personal experiences to draw from, to help them as they grow and transform into teenagers and young adults. I bet you are a role model to your daughter, and you will be rewarded for facing and conquering the challenges as she continues to make you proud.

  4. Johnnetta Baskin-White says

    I totally agree with your post. Girls are not well represented in STEM fields. I am the mother of an 8 yo son, so I am going to go in the direction that black males are also grossly missing in not only STEM fields, but missing in the higher level math high school classes as well as the college classrooms. I am a middle school physical science teacher so of course, I have been grooming my son for STEM since before he was born. He has a VERY high interest in math, science, technology, and wants to be a robotics engineer. I have had him enrolled in Mathnasium since the summer before he started kindergarten. He attends a STEM based magnet school where he’s been since kindergarten. He also has that computer and plays math games (as we don’t allow him to play anything that isn’t educational). We LOVE what his school offers in teaching technology, math, science, and of course art, music, English, reading, and Social Studies. His school has won many awards for their STEM driven curriculum. He LOVES robots and the middle and high school that he will feed into are also STEM schools. The robotics programs are emphasized in the middle and high school. In addition, I enroll my son in STEM camps over the summer and some that are offered year round like Saturday Science, and those offered by Jr.NSBE (Jr. Division of the National Society of Black Engineers). The toys his father and I buy him are those like Ozobot, Dash & Dot, and Apps like Scratch Jr, Hopscotch, and LightBot which teaches coding. You are SO right! We as parents have to foster our children’s love of science and enstill that belief that they are more than capable to be whatever they want to be!! My son will be amongst the leaders in STEM! Look into girlswhocode.org for your daughter and those coding Apps. Let her play with her dolls but teach her to imagine her dolls as scientists, engineers, doctors, professors…let her emulate what she sees her life to be through educational play with her dolls! That also fosters critical thinking skills, something many of my students are weak in and a skill that has to be sharp in STEM related courses/fields or ANY for that matter! Thank you for your post, continue steadfastly in your path and many blessings to you and your family!

    Mrs. JBW, Montgomery, AL

    • says

      To what do you attribute your students’ lack of critical thinking skills? I’ve really never thought about why some people have them and some don’t, other than thinking some just weren’t interested in education (and still aren’t!). Do you think it’s nature or nurture? I don’t recall anything specific about being taught critical thinking and writing skills, but perhaps the fact I attended parochial schools may have been a factor. We really weren’t “taught” at home. No political or educational discussions at the dinner table. All I remember was my father’s per peeve about our conversational grammar: “I’m gonna…” NO you are not. You are GOING TO.!

      It’s so refreshing -and encouraging- to see parents encouraging their children, fostering their interests, and being INVOLVED in their lives and educations!

      Best wishes to your children!.

  5. addison says

    You all will be thrilled to hear that at least one middle school advanced level math teacher is very focused on the girls in her class! She teaches the class while the girls visit and play on their phones and ipads and then, when they are struggling with the assignment, spends the rest of the class time working with them to make sure that they can do the work. Isn’t that awesome?!

    The boys in the class are pretty much on their own (if anyone cares to know). While she is teaching and the girls are visiting, if one of the boys says one word, she tells them to stop talking. When they ask for help, she tells them that they should have been paying attention. I guess that she is just trying to “level the field” for the girls……..?

  6. Thomas Holst says

    My wife and I were blessed with a daughter who was interested in learning anything and everything. From pre-school on, she showed talent in reading, music and organizational skills. We decided to encourage and support every constructive interest she had. I once told her that if she could learn to read and read well, she could teach herself to do anything. It worked!

    She excelled in reading, math and science in elementary school and her teachers used her to help other students. She ended up playing 4 instruments in concert band, marching band and jazz band in Junior High and High School which earned her performing trips around the US. At 13, she worked hard with the Girl Scout Cookie Sales and earned an 8-day tour of London, England.

    At 15, she became interested in astronomy so I bought her a telescope which she uses to this day. At 16 she wanted to learn to fly an airplane, taught herself the basics by reading the Jeppeson manual and soloed in a Cessna 172 after only 13 hours of flight instruction.

    At 18, she graduated High School with many AP classes under her belt and a math scholarship. We spent the summer touring universities around the Northwest but she elected to attend our oldest in-state university. There she earned two BS degrees; one in Fisheries Science and a second in GIS (Geographic Information Systems).

    She’s been working the past several years and married the love of her life two weeks ago. She loves the outdoors and they live at a fish hatchery out in the country. She raises chickens for eggs and has become an expert birder.

    Our daughter is a great example of what a young lady can do when allowed to make her own decisions and provided with the tools and encouragement to succeed. I wouldn’t trade her for three boys.

    Dad

  7. says

    I understand you quite clearly. Two summers ago our grand daughter did the STEM program at MIT in Boston. She attended for the two summers that allowed her. I’d tell anyone that was one of the best things that happened to her. High honors student and even though she still has two more years if high school she is way advanced. We must allow our daughters and grand daughters to dream big and make those dreams big realities. The girls in our lives need to be allowed to think way outside the box. Congratulation on raising such an indepent and assertive young lady. You’ll hold her hand now but I take it you’ll know exactly when to let go.

  8. says

    I was in high school in the early 70’s. We had to take some kind of Army aptitude test. Mine came back with the recommendation that I should be either a pilot or jet mechanic. Hey, that’s how I roll. I just have an ability to figure out mechanical stuff, and., well, “I have the need! The NEED FOR SPEED!”

    I knew those were not careers I could pursue. Not back then. But I was still interested in the mechanical stuff. And I’m an artist. So, naturally, I thought blueprints and exploded views of stuff were cool. I tried signing up for Mechanical Frawing as an elective. Nope! No cam do! I was told only boys could take that class, and that maybe I could take the new sewing class Mrs. (friend’s mother) was going to teach. Man, I was ticked off! Seriously ticked off! I was already a kind of feminist. My friends and I were pushing, hard, for more sports opportunities for girls. We eventually won that battle and in my senior year we started a soccer team and a softball team (the only sports girls could participate in at the time were basketball and swimming/diving). But my mom was terminally ill at the time and my dad, with six daughters and one son, had little interest in what we girls did. So, no support there. I ended up just retaking an art class, and my teacher had to go to the mat for me so I could do that!

    I hope the path to whatever your little girl wants to do will be easie. Especially if she chooses to pursue a degree and career in what is now a male-dominated field. Hopefully the ratio of female to male STEM fields will have improved by then, and there won’t be any more gender barriers.

    It’s great that you will be so supportive and encouraging for both your girls! My father, who had graduated from a Jesuit, all-male college, was upset when those schools, including his alma mater, went co-ed. My niece wanted to apply to his school, but he wouldn’t write a letter of recommendation for her because he didn’t think they should have allowed women to attend! Well, she ended up at an Ivy-League school (so his school lost out) from which she graduated with high honors, got her master’s degree, and is now an extremely successful actress, producer, co-owner of a production company, and director. But she still faces gender barriers, and is involved in the push for equal opportunities and pay scales for women and minorities in acting roles and above the line positions (directors, producers, writers, etc.).

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