Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Years of Living Science

“It's poetry in motion
She turned her tender eyes to me
As deep as any ocean
As sweet as any harmony
Mmm - but she blinded me with science
She blinded me with science
And failed me in biology…”

—Thomas Dolby, She Blinded Me With Science

"Look at what Bryce did, Daddy," the Mama said.

We had just had the under-the-stairs closet remodeled with shelves, cubbies and hooks, so I figured it had something to do with that. The closet had been a hiding place of sorts for the girls, but it was always so full of stuff, making it difficult for the girls to really enjoy the rite of passage hideaway.

I peeked in the closet and there was Bryce kneeling on the floor with a flashlight lighting up whatever it was she had set up.

"It's her bug lab," the Mama answered before I could ask.

"Ah, your bug lab, Bryce. Very nice."

"Daddy, Daddy -- I have to tell you something," Bryce said.


"This is my bug lab where I do science. You want to see it?"

"Yes, I see it. Pretty cool, Bryce. Science!"

When the girls do something science related, I always post it proudly and declare, "Science!" This being a reference to the 1982 Thomas Dolby song referenced above, when the crazy psychiatrist shouts it out throughout the song.

But that's not really what the song's about, the literal science things. No, Thomas used science as a metaphor for attraction and love. It's a campy video, complete with the "home of deranged scientists," all men of course. It was never supposed to be a supportive message about women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

My apologies to my girls, although my intention is always supportive when it comes to them learning and expanding their hearts and minds, especially in the world of STEM. This past Christmas we got them fun experiment gifts -- a slime kit and a volcano kit -- both of which they've already indulged in gladly. The novelty of the robot dog and dinosaur gifts have already worn off, but the microscope kit for Bryce was a huge hit. She keeps exclaiming over and over again, "Let's do science!" And Beatrice is an artist and math fan who's now entering her school's science fair this year with a classmate (which I got to be a judge for last year). She's even cracked the physics formula of becoming a dog: kids + dog food + dog hair = dogs.

Right on.

So when's the part where they're discouraged to continue to expand their hearts and minds through STEM? When's the part where they're only seen as lovely useless objects of biology and nothing more?

Because it's coming, statistically speaking. And that's quite disheartening.

Thankfully there are kids'  books like Going Placeswhere a strong lead female character is highly creative and inventive, and shows like Odd Squad on PBS Kids (one of my favorites actually), an X-Files for kids, where gender diversity and all diversity in STEM is celebrated, and where two of the lead characters are girls (and there are many more in the show).

But at what point will their teachers stop picking Bea and Bryce to lead class projects and/or teams? Right now they have very inclusive and supportive teachers, women of course, who celebrate all the girl and boy strengths (just as the Mama and I do and thankfully many other responsible parents as well). But when will that stop? Middle school? High school? College? All of the above?

And at what point will employers overlook them for their male counterparts (because someday they may have children or whatever the reason)? At what point does the hostility and the sexual harassment start because of their interest in technology and science (or anything for that matter)? According to a recent survey, 60 percent of women in tech reported unwanted sexual advances. I have failed myself in my distant professional past, but haven't tolerated it since.

I read an article is the Santa Cruz Sentinel this last week about the film Code: Debugging the Gender Gap, which I wasn't aware of but now definitely want to see. The article highlighted these documentary facts:

The documentary by award-winning director Robin Hauser Reynolds, released in April, reports sobering disparities in the industry. At Apple, only 20 percent of employees are women. At Google, it’s 17 percent. And at Twitter, it’s just 10 percent. Of the 1.4 million computing-related job openings the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts by 2020, American women will fill less than 3 percent, or about one for every nine American men, according to the film.

When do the years of living science stop for our girls? We hope never, unless it's their choice, and even then we hope their sense of mindful fairness and imaginative wonder will never cease, and that it will continuously flow downhill like glowing magma, clearing the thorny landscape below of misogyny, harassment and discrimination for generations to come.

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