Dear Parents Everywhere

Over the last 2 months I’ve been part of a Youth Think Tank to investigate why less than 20% of engineering students are female, and to create a website that talks about engineering in a way that’s actually interesting for teenagers. Because of my experience, I have a few insights I’d like to share with you about how to communicate with high school girls, how to talk with us about our futures and decision-making, about our attitudes towards STEM, and how gender issues affect all of this.

First of all, when talking to teenage girls, you want to make the topic sound fun and exciting. You want to convince us that we’re going to have a fun time. You want to show us the positive aspects of our future, but at the same time make us aware of the negative sides. When talking about the negative sides, try to counter it with a positive attribute. Make sure you aren’t sounding like the job they have chosen is going to be a thing they will have to stay and work for the next few decades of their life, but rather sound like it would be a privilege to work their and that everyday would be a thrilling adventure.

Secondly, if a girl is interested in STEM careers, be sure to support her in her choices and even help her in going down the right path or help her find opportunities where she will get to experience what it’s like to work there. Always encourage her, if you put her down or seem like you aren’t fully supportive and sure of the job then she will second-guess herself. Parents are the people their daughters look up to for everything, and if you aren’t there for her, she will feel as if STEM isn’t a good choice for her to pursue anymore.

Lastly, gender equality seems to play a big role. There are many reasons as to why girls aren’t enrolling in STEM careers. It could be that girls are intimidated by a dominantly male career, it could be that they aren’t confident in their abilities when comparing themselves to men (or just in general), or it could be that they haven’t even been introduced to the STEM pathway. Research shows that boys seem to be shown more of STEM-related things from a younger age than girls. Even if it’s just building things with Lego blocks, they’re taught to build and find ways to make everything fit and look good, whereas girls are given Barbie dolls to dress up and play with. In this way, we are stereotyped. Girls from a young age are shown what it’s like to be a fashion designer, or artist, or performer, where boys are brought up to be the one who is expected to support the family and do the “man’s” work.

But in reality, girls are equal to boys, and they could even bring something to STEM that men can’t. Girls are generally perfectionists and will double check to make sure everything is perfect and that there are no flaws, where boys tend to be more rash with their decisions. Girls can bring different ideas than men considering the difference in mindset of the different genders.

Support, encourage, and help girls in their decisions and always think positive. Remember that girls can do just the same as men, so don’t go doubting and second-guessing us. By doing this, you give us support and a feeling that tells us we really can do it, helping us towards our dreams.

Sincerely,
Youth Think Tank Member

We asked our Youth Think Tank to write letters describing their thoughts around Engineering to the people who matter in their world. Listen up WEMADEIT community!

Dear Awesome Female High School-er Considering Engineering,

Over the last 2 months I’ve been part of a Youth Think Tank to investigate why less than 20% of engineering students are female, and to create a website that talks about engineering in way that’s actually appealing to teenagers. Because of my experience, I have a few insights I’d like to share with you about how to communicate with high school girls, how to talk with us about our futures and decision making, about our attitudes towards STEM, and how gender issues affect all of this. Check out our website wemadeit.ca for more interesting things about engineering and how you can pursue it.

Despite the strive for equality, the first person that comes to mind when thinking of an engineer is a guy in a hard hat, which in reality is only small part of engineering. Engineering is a vast and flexible field that spans pharmaceutical production (making medicine) to building skyscrapers to designing smart phones. Pretty much anything that makes your life easier was made or improved by an engineer.

Isn’t engineering is all about math and science, you might ask. The answer is, not really. Yes, math and science are important to engineering, but engineering also involves problem solving, creativity, curiosity, design and communication. It’s about seeing the world problems and wanting to do something to solve them, whether it is climate change, conserving the environment or improving healthcare. Best of all, engineers are really flexible in their abilities and have a unique perspective and way of thinking. That is why there are engineers working in banks, graphics design, schools and other places you wouldn’t associate with engineering.

Engineering is a wonderful post-secondary path that leads to countless opportunities. Definitely consider studying it!

Best wishes,
WEMADEIT – Youth Think Tanker
P.S. Go Engineering!

We asked our Youth Think Tank to write letters describing their thoughts around Engineering to the people who matter in their world. Listen up WEMADEIT community!

Dear Mom and Dad,

Over the last 2 months I’ve been part of a youth think tank to investigate why less than 20% of engineering students are female, and to create a website that talks about engineering in a way that’s actually interesting for teenagers. Because of my experience, I have a few insights I’d like to share with you about how to communicate with high school girls, how to talk with us about our futures and decision making, about our attitudes towards STEM, and how gender issues affect all if this.

Firstly, high school students, boys and girls, are stressed out and confused about their futures. None of us know for sure what we want to do for a career, which isn’t surprising, since we’re only aged 13-18! We never stop thinking about universities and our futures, so parents of high school students need to be understanding of and patient about this. We need to know all of our possibilities and opportunities, and be able to thoroughly research each in order to make an informed decision – after all, it’s a huge decision! We can’t be expected to just know what we want to do with our lives – we need to have the chance to really look into it before coming to a decision.

Secondly, gender stereotypes and expectations can be stressful to high school girls, depending on our families and friends, and their personal expectations of us. If a girl’s family believes the gender stereotypes – say, for example, that women should stay at home and cook and clean and take care of the kids – that girl may be less likely to go into a professional career, because she may feel discouraged from it. Parents and friends of high school girls need to be open minded and accepting. We need to feel encouraged and supported.

Lastly, high school girls need to believe that we are going into something worthwhile, and feel like we’ll be making a difference in our specific fields of study, especially in STEM careers. Parents need to be supportive of STEM careers and encourage their children to go into STEM if it’s something they want to do. We rely on our parents’ approval and support in order to make appropriate decisions that we’ll be proud of later in life, so it is incredibly important that parents support such a crucial decision.

Sincerely,
WEMADEIT Youth Think Tanker

We asked our Youth Think Tank to write letters describing their thoughts around Engineering to the people who matter in their world. Listen up WEMADEIT community!

Dear Guidance Counsellor & Student Support,

Dear Guidance Counsellor & Student Support,

Over the last 2 months I’ve been part of a Youth Think Tank to investigate why less than 20% of engineering students are female, and to create a website that talks about engineering in way that’s actually interesting for teenagers. Because of my experience, I have a few insights I’d like to share with you about how to communicate with high school girls, how to talk with us about our futures and decision making, about our attitudes towards STEM, and how gender issues affect all of this.

What I have learned through my experience with the Youth Think Tank is that many students have very limited perception of what engineering is and what engineers are capable of doing. I have done interviews with some friends from our school and I was surprised to find how they did not know the extent of creativity and imagination that engineering actually requires.

What I have come to believe is that the cause of the inaccurate perception of what engineering is, is the lack of similarity and connection of the classroom material and the actual possibilities of a career in engineering. The students have very little information about how the subjects studied in class can actually contribute to a career.

As you are a member of the student support and outreach, I believe that you can think of possible events that can showcase what engineering really is. I personally learned a lot about engineering through talking to professional engineers, many of whom are eager to volunteer and talk to young kids and teenagers about engineering and its capacities.

To learn more about these individuals and their work, I suggest you take a quick look around our website, WEMADEIT.ca.

Sincerely,
WEMADEIT Youth Think Tank Member

We asked our Youth Think Tank to write letters describing their thoughts around Engineering to the people who matter in their world. Listen up WEMADEIT community!