To all the parents reading this. If you have daughters, push them for STEM careers, please. Not just doctors. Engineers, mathematicians, data scientists, computer programmers, astronauts, anthropologists, scientists, geologists and the list goes on. Do you know why we have such less girls in these professions? 1. Complete dearth of female role models. 2. Cultural norms. 3. Stereotypes. As per a report by the British Council in Pakistan, just like other countries, the STEM subjects are disproportionately dominated by male students and women are seriously under represented in STEM careers in Pakistan.
In several studies, when children were asked to draw a mathematician or a scientist, girls were twice as likely to draw men as they were to draw women, while boys almost universally drew men, often in a lab coat. There are persistent images in our daily lives where the men get to be the engineers and the women get to be moms, or reporters or secretaries. This needs to change and parents are the ones that need to bring in this change. Females in STEM fields are important for a sustainable and prosperous future for Pakistan. It is crucial that parents of the women of tomorrow realise they are stakeholders in scientific progress and make their daughters empowered to contribute to it.
Parents play a significant role in dispelling stereotypes in STEM education. You have to help your girls persist in science and math. Encourage them to take high school classes in calculus, physics, chemistry and computer science. Supporting STEM education does not mean undermining journalists or writers or accountants, but it is one thing to consciously not choose a career in STEM and completely another to be subconsciously convinced that you can’t do well in STEM fields.
Don’t wait for your daughter’s last year of high school to ask them what they want to major in, plan from the beginning and make them aware of all the amazing STEM careers out there. Support them in their choices and make sure they know that they can pursue a career in any field and their gender shouldn’t be a deterrent. Every career is demanding but with a little support, awareness and the right opportunities, we can hope for gender parity in STEM careers.