As I watched my daughter play with her Unruly Splats recently, my mind was drawn back to a very interesting Forbes Magazine article that I had read earlier this fall, entitled “Girls, If You Want To Change The World*, Try STEM (*and earn a lot while you do it)”.
In her article, author Talia Milgrom-Elcott, an education professional, cited the familiar concern about girls’ still-lagging participation levels in STEM fields. Ms. Milgrom-Elcott suggested that an effective way to address this gender gap was to more effectively communicate to girls their own power to change the world through careers in STEM and advanced STEM education. The article cites a recent Microsoft study in which 72% of the girls polled said it was important for them to have jobs that directly helped the world, but only 37% thought of STEM careers as being creative or making the world better. In her article, Ms. Milgrom-Elcott points to several examples that show the success that can result when girls realize how STEM education can empower them to enact change. One of the areas the author highlights is children’s coding education. As the article notes, “we teach our girls to code, and they choose to go out and change the world.” That sentence has stayed with me since.
Back when I first read it, the article grabbed my attention because, although I don’t like to admit it, I sometimes find my mind preoccupied with thinking – worrying really – about what the future might have in store for my daughter as she grows up. Thoughts like “what will she want to do?” “what will make her happy?” and “how can I help put her on the right path?” all shoot through my brain unbidden, from time to time. Frankly, I also sometimes worry about how society will treat her. I worry about the expectations, pressures and limitations she might feel as a female in the current culture. Even if I am a bit over the top, I simply cannot be the only parent to have had such concerns. We all want the best for our kids after all.
My daughter is an outgoing, confident, kind and analytical six-year-old. She loves to solve problems or riddles, while spinning elaborate make-believe plans and creating her own games. She is an absolute sponge for new ideas and cares a lot about helping others. I have no doubt at all that my daughter is among the 72% of girls for whom it is important to have jobs that help the world. I love the confident, caring young person my daughter is. Whatever my daughter’s path to happiness and fulfillment is, as her dad I want to help her reach it. I want to do everything I can to ensure that she is able to pursue her goals, support herself, find her own happiness and live a full life.
So, with all this in mind, watching my daughter play with her Unruly Splats, I got that rare moment, that precious commodity in parenting: I got a sense of relief and calm. I got that because I knew that, although she felt it was mere play, I was actually watching my daughter perform the foundations of coding as she constructed a relay game and then a complicated light and sound sequence. My six-year-old daughter was learning to code. And she was doing it herself, she was creating for herself and gaining confidence and a sense of empowerment in the process.
As I watched and thought about that Forbes article, I was blessed with the feeling that my daughter would not be defined or limited by society, or her gender or even the changing nature of our very technological society. She is going to do great. She is smart, capable and confident. Learning STEM skills such as coding, particularly at a young age, arms her with all essential tools to change this world for the better. Her Splats from Unruly Studios have helped set her on the path to that future and I am grateful for it.
Link to Ms. Milgrom-Elcott’s article: Girls, If You Want To Change The World*, Try STEM (*and earn a lot while you do it)