My little sister Katie is 12 years old. I love that she has the opportunity to pursue whatever she wants to be when she grows up, but I’m aware it isn’t always that simple. There are gender-based challenges that girls like Katie will inevitably face when it comes to equal opportunity, particularly in STEM fields.
When I was 12 I liked to take leadership roles. I was confident in my ability to guide a group towards a common goal, until a boy in my class called me “bossy.” Because I didn’t want to be made fun of for being a leader, I let him take over the project even though it was something I knew I could do better. Although many years have passed since then and I’m confident in my skills today, I’m occasionally reminded of that feeling.
Women in technology face more challenges to reach their professional goals, and it starts at a really young age. A Girl Scouts study found that 74 percent of preteen and teen girls were interested in STEM. However, 57 percent of those girls said that girls their age don’t typically consider a career in STEM and if they did, they think they’d have to work harder than a man just to be taken seriously. An OECD study on gender equality in education found that despite testing equally, girls have a significantly lower confidence level in all subjects. Studies have found that despite teachers’ perceptions of treating male and female students equally, male students are more frequently invited to participate in class, given more in-depth and constructive feedback and entrusted with projects that are more independent than their female peers.
With this knowledge in mind, we cannot keep blaming the STEM leadership gender gap on life-choices and luck.
Since I can’t talk to my 12-year-old self, I’d like to tell my sister to be a boss, embrace technology and don’t let anyone stop you from doing what you love. I’d like to tell the boys in her class that girls can lead just as well as they can. I’d like to remind her teachers that she is every bit as capable as her peers.
Here at Delphic, I’m surrounded by incredible, successful women who have joined a male-dominated field to do what they love. To encourage more girls to pursue a career in technology, I asked Delphic women what they wish they could say to their 12-year-old selves and they delivered some gems.
“You don’t have to always do what you are good at. Do the things you like to do and you will get good at them. Do the things that excite and challenge you, and you will find happiness.” — Becky Chan, Senior UX Designer
“You’re allowed to change your mind! It’s good to have a plan, but it’s important to continue to be open to new opportunities. You never know where life might take you; don’t be afraid to take the unfamiliar path once in a while. Stay curious, keep learning, and remember that you can always change your mind again as you continue to evolve.” — Beth Perkins, Talent Acquisition Manager
On social media:
“Remember that people post their best selves on social media — don’t think that you are the only person experiencing heartache, upset, a bad grade, or a tough home life just because everyone around you looks happy.” — Alix Furjanic, Senior Account Manager
“When I was younger, I was placed in some of the more advanced classes in my public school. I remember being really excited about it at first, but that quickly changed when the more popular kids began to make fun of us ‘nerdy’ kids. I became embarrassed by how well I did in school. If I had the chance, I would tell my 12-year-old self to be proud of how smart she is and never hold yourself back, just to fit in. And though it may not seem like it today, but being a nerd is actually super cool…you’ll see.” — Jamie Price, Account Director
“Don’t get so down on yourself for being artistic, creative, and sensitive. Empathy and compassion, the ability to approach every problem with an imaginative, colorful eye…those traits don’t make you ‘weak’ or any less of a ‘badass’ than all of those competitive, aggressive personalities out there. You have every capacity to lead others towards solutions, and you have every skill needed to be an inspiration and a mentor to others.” — Brooke Kelly, Senior Business Analyst-30-