Brave New Girls

By Evangeline Jennings

Here is a truth. I am crap at math(s). The S comes and goes depending on where I am and who I’m speaking with, but the crapness is a constant. I know how much to tip – because I used to wait tables – and I know precisely how many beans make five but I struggle with percentages – even with a calculator – and the hypoteneuse is light years beyond me. Whatever a light year is.

Here is a second truth. I also suck at science.

When I was a kid, it was almost de rigeur. There were many things I was expected to be, but smart at maths and good at science were never two of them. And the subjects were presented in such mordant and uninspiring ways that it was difficult to find even the slightest enthusiasm for any of them. Here’s how to pass an exam, we were taught. Not This is why this science shit is so fucking important.

Today I resent that.

I really wish I understood science. I’d like to have a grasp of how space and time work. I want to have my own pet theories about the universe.

But I don’t. Because when I was a bright young thing with my life ahead of me, no one ever showed me how important science was. It was never an option for me.

It’s way too late for me now but I have a daughter and since I am nothing but a walking cliché, I want her to have all the opportunities I didn’t. Yes, and your daughters too.

But it’s still hard.

According to the US Department of Commerce, women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, but hold less than 25 percent of the jobs in STEM (Science, Technonlogy, Engineering, and Math). This has been the case throughout the past decade, even as college educated women have increased their share of the overall workforce, and even though women with STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs, which means that the gender wage gap is smaller in STEM jobs than in non-STEM jobs.

Male students are over three times more likely to be interested in STEM majors and careers – My College Options and STEMconnector, 2012.

While 54% of AP test-takers in 2012 were female, only 19% of that group took the Computer Science AP exam – College Board, 2012

The number of 1st year undergraduate women interested in a Computer Science major declined 79% between 2000 and 2011 – NCWIT, 2012.

And so on and so forth.

I may be crap at math and clueless at statistics, but even I can see none of those numbers are good.

Why? Well, the obvious factors are gender-stereotyping and a lack of positive role models. Also, according to a Harris poll (2009), more than 20% of girls say their parents have encouraged them to become an actress, while only 10% say their parents have suggested an engineering career. Whatever the cause, in 2012, the Girl Scout Research Institute reported that well over half of all girls say that “girls don’t typically consider a career in STEM”. Now that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy and a half.

BNGAnd that’s why I’m proud to have contributed to a book called Brave New Girls. A new Syfy YA anthology with a purpose, Brave New Girls is stuffed to the gills with stories that showcase teenage girls with mad science skills. The goal is to inspire our daughters and sisters to explore that side of themselves, to feel OK about their bad ass geeky nerdy sides, and ultimately to consider careers in technology, science, and engineering.

Quite simply, it’s as much a woman’s right as abortion, and if we can help girls into careers that give them a sound financial foundation for their life, then we are being fucking good feminists.

Putting its money where its mouth is, Brave New Girls will donate all revenue from sales to a scholarship fund through the Society of Women Engineers.

Why not check it out? There are some excellent stories, including one by NYT Best Selling Author, Kate Moretti. I would tell you which were my personal favourites but I’m not entirely stupid. Just shit at maths and ignorant about science.


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