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.
WEMADEIT Youth Think Tanker