On International Women’s Day, I would like to share a few thoughts about being a mother and an engineer. But, mostly, I want to discuss how parents can encourage girls to become women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
I am the mother of three lovely girls. And I believe that parents have a responsibility to encourage children to develop an interest in technology from an early age.
Here are a few examples of how my husband and I helped our girls in STEM explore their dreams to become women in technology.
Inspiring Children to Become Women in Tech Can Start Early
A few years ago, I was working on a project that studied the thermal signature of a sonic jet.
Though they were young, I wanted my children to understand what I do for a living. So, I explained the technical challenges of my work to my children.
In June of that year, to illustrate my technical project, we visited some displays of sonic jets — and other aircraft.
My children’s interests were piqued.
By next summer, we participated in a sand sculpting competition. Instead of building the castle of my children’s favorite Disney princess, they wanted to build a sonic jet.
We won! On top of that, we made it into the local newspaper!
My children were very proud of our sonic jet.
Once a Child’s Interest in STEM is Piqued, Feed It Constantly
My children are still everyday children. They love to visit Cinderella, Snow White and the gang at Disneyland Paris.
But we also go to Cité des Enfants, a science museum in Paris. Here, my girls in STEM can discover scientific and technical phenomena while having just as much fun as they would at Disney.
We also make it a point to visit high-tech companies and industrial sites, including:
Next time, we plan to visit Airbus. My children want to learn about the A300-600ST Beluga. Or, as they like to call it, “the flying whale.”
Every other year, we also attend the International Paris Air Show. Last time, during the show, we tried a virtual reality adventure where we experienced zero gravity on the International Space Station (ISS). My girls played the roles of astronauts. What an inspirational experience!
A Curious Mind Can Solve Problems and Become the Mind of a Woman in Tech
The earlier we start to open our children’s minds to STEM, the more it will be part of their culture and the more curious they will be.
This curiosity brings a greater sense of personal competence — “I can do this!” — and a greater sense of learning efficacy — “I can learn this!”
Who knows, perhaps cultivating their curiosity could inspire a girl in STEM to become a Women in Tech?
Right now, my second eldest daughter wants to be an obstetrician for giraffes and my eldest wants to be her assistant — yes, you read that correctly.
Our 1-year-old girl, however, is still thinking about her future. Whatever it is, we will ensure that a strong understanding of STEM will keep her options open.
If you are a little older than my girls and would like a career in STEM, search for jobs at ANSYS.
Happy International Women’s Day!