How to raise fierce, clever girls who don't know the meaning of 'can't'
These great tips will benefit the boys in your lives too.
We all know how much kids love technology. They are attracted to it like moths to a flame and from a very young age a child can operate their iPad like a mini hacking genius! As their little fingers tap away it opens them up to a whole new world of possibilities. However, girls are still being told that they are not cut out for the tech industry and this really bothers me.
Perhaps it was because as a woman in the tech industry I am still reeling about a recent memo by a Google engineer (who has since been fired) that said, the gender gap of women in tech roles is due to biological differences. For example, the untrue claim that women are less interested in high-stress jobs because they are more anxious. Baloney!
This got me thinking about how we, as parents, can sow seeds in our children that will grow to give girls permission and encouragement to be involved in tech roles, and for boys to expect that girls have just as much to offer as they do. The answer, I have found, is to start early.
Old habits die hard. Some of the messages we picked up during our childhood and automatically repeat to this day can enforce gender stereotypes and limit what our children believe is possible. It’s important to be aware of what messages we are sending our children about gender.
For example, if the home computer breaks and requires the man at the computer shop to fix it, that is not because fixing computers is a ‘man’s job’ but rather because that person (who just happens to be a male) has developed a skill in that area.
I know what you are thinking – “they ask ‘why’ too much already!” What I mean is that they need to learn to think for themselves and become comfortable doing so.
Questioning the ‘hows and whys’ will cause curiosity to develop and they will want to find out if there are better ways to do things. Your child might be an inventor, innovator, entrepreneur, or anything they want to be but this only happens when they learn to think for themselves.
Inspire your children to try challenging things and stick at them. If there is something that they cannot do, reassure them that it is not because they are just not good at it.
Rather, it is because they just cannot do it yet! Encourage them to learn more about it, ask for help, practice more and try again another time.
Weeding out even the seemingly small forms of disrespect, sends a strong message – that any type of disrespect is harmful.
Making fun of girls because of their appearance or using gender as an insult, ‘don’t throw like a girl’ or ‘boys don’t cry’ continues gender bias and tolerates disrespect. My son will be raised to know that I code like a girl, and that’s a great thing!
Learn about and celebrate strong female role models with your children, particularly those movers and shakers in their industries. Women like Hedy Lemarr who invented communication technology that is present in WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth and almost every single modern communication device!
Truth be told, we need more females in industries like tech. Not because we just want to balance out the male to female ratio but because we have so much to contribute to this space!
Our girls can do so much more than just show us how to use the new TV remote (face it, if they aren’t already, they will be in a matter of years). If we validate our girls by instilling in them that they can work in any field they desire, I believe that we will benefit society as a whole, including our sons.
Christie Whitehill (entrepreneur and mentor in the Australian tech space)
This article has been republished with permission from Kidspot