Count Girls In challenges these assumptions and presents a totally different way of thinking: there is a place for all girls and young women—not just the science fair winners and robotics club members—in science, technology, engineering, and math fields, if we can keep their minds and options open and meet them where they are.
Author: Karen Panetta, PhD & Katianne Williams
Published: August 1st, 2018
With every week that goes by, our society integrates more and more technology into our every day lives. By the time our generation’s children have grown up there will be job positions opened up for tech careers that haven’t even been invented yet. Of course we want to set our children up for success in their futures. According to Panetta and Williams, the way to do that is to foster an interest in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).
But young girls face challenges that their male peers don’t. Even as our culture has progressed leaps and bounds in the past century in regards to gender equality, there is still a subtle message conveyed to many you girls and young women that STEM is a boy’s world. Count Girls In attempts to confront that message by opening up a conversation about where that message comes from and how we (usually unknowingly) perpetuate it.
I mean, most parents probably do not specifically tell their daughters “No you can’t be a scientist of an engineer. Go practice your receptionist skills!” And this book does not accuse anyone of doing that. Rather, they assert that the message comes from our unconscious emphasizing of “isn’t that pretty?” in conversations with girls and then they see that their brothers and male friends are encouraged towards things like robotics, getting their hands dirty, building things!
Most importantly though, this book gave dozens of examples of ways to get involved and foster a curiosity for how things work. One of my favorite parts of this book was the idea of meeting girls where they are.
For example, there was a section about the release of Lego Friends, a series of Lego sets in purples and pink marketed toward girls. There was backlash at its release because of the gendering of the product. But the fact was…they sold! Which meant that more girls than ever were playing with Legos, more girls were building things, expanding their imaginations and creative thinking.
Most girls like pretty things. And that is okay! A woman can be feminine AND be successful in a STEM field. A young girl can like to play with pink and purple blocks instead of green and blue. Either way, she is learning to imagine and create. Neither has to be sacrificed for the sake of the other. The point is, we don’t have to take dolls out of our girls’ hands and force boxed science experiments down their throat to foster a love of science. We can work with them, meet them where they are.
Does she love dolls? Try teaching her how to sew clothes for them. This introduces the concept of imagining the overall product and then breaking it down into manageable steps to make it a reality. Not only does this teach a valuable skill, it can give them the self-confidence to attempt more.
This was just one of dozens of examples of how to meet girls where their interest already lies and growing on that. From grade school, it went on to middle school and the psychological pressures and changes that come with puberty and how to continue working with them all the way into high school and college.
I got this book from a visit to the library but I will likely be grabbing a copy to keep at home because, as a mother of a young girl, I found the thought and advise in this book to be invaluable and the presentation of their arguments was right on point.