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Getting Girls Into Tech

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The number of women entering STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) careers is declining. There are programs at the college and professional levels that try to attract women and racial minorities into these fields, but they're not all that successful. I think it's because college is too late. What sort of future do you want for your own girls-- a wide-open future full of possibilities? Or more of the same old "you can't do that"?

I don't have children of my own, which for a lot of parents automatically disqualifies me from having any kind of valid opinions. I do have eyes, and I can see that a lot of my friends are raising their sons and daughters in the same old stereotypical ways. The boys are taught to be demanding, and that they have a right to whatever they want. They're not held accountable for poor behavior, and mommy waits on them like a slave.

Meanwhile the girls are taught to be self-effacing, quiet, and that their main goal in life is to get married to a man. Mom sets such an awesome example-- she gives up her own name when she gets married, husband is the boss, boys are slobs with no household skills. Mom wears idiotic, non-functional women's clothes and hairstyles that get in the way of doing anything other than posing decoratively. Girls pick up after the boys. The world is wide-open to the boys, while the girls are steered into gentle, passive pink pursuits.

What kind of toys do little girls get? Dolls and playhouses. Boys gets guns, bikes, and tools. Little girls are taught manners, while little boys get to take things apart and figure out how to put them back together. Girls play with mommy in the kitchen, while the boys go outside with dad and blow things up. (Out here in farm country, anyway.)

A lot of schools are still mired in the '50s. Girls get home ec, boys get shop and sports.

In children's literature and entertainment, the main female characters are still delicate little princesses who need to be rescued by handsome princes. Maybe it takes an outside observer with no kids of her own to see how pervasive the old stereotypes and behaviors still are. I have vivid memories of my own childhood, which was beastly. There were no female role models for a kid like me, who liked all the traditional "boy's" activities, and I took rafts of trash-talk and discouragement just for wanting to do the fun stuff, instead of being content with posing decoratively by the kitchen stove. Even music was divided by the sexes-- I wanted to play the saxophone, by dang, but no. Girls played flute.

Most kids need a lot of encouragement and support to discover and pursue their real dreams. It's the rare maverick who is born with enough inner strength and stubbornness to persist in the face of continual opposition, and the most difficult kind to resist is the gentle, well-meaning kind from people who think they know what is best for you. The FOSS world is the best playground of all for anyone who is seriously interested in high-tech; I'd like to see it become a lot more child-friendly, and especially girl-friendly.


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