As a female engineer, I’m glad to see that there has been so much focus in recent years about getting more girls interested in STEM fields. Many times during college I could count the number of females in my class on a single hand, and in the workplace it isn’t uncommon to be the only female in the room during a meeting.
While I’m happy to see a focus on engaging girls in STEM, it seems like the focus is all or nothing. Either be a princess, or be an engineer, but you can’t be both. In reality, being a princess and an engineer aren’t mutually exclusive. It is perfectly acceptable to want to have pretty technology wearables (like this Kate Spade Activity Tracker), and also know how it works.
In TV and movies, female engineers and scientists are usually portrayed as un-stylish – often wearing either outdated, geriatric, or geeky clothing. While I might be guilty of wearing jeans and a hoodie to work more often than once in a while, or owning a funny Star Wars Christmas sweater; I also enjoy dressing up in cute outfits, and growing my collection of Kate Spade purses. One of the advantages of being an engineer is that we can often wear jeans to work daily, with a salary to afford cute designer ones.
I often go to blogging events and the topic of our day jobs will come up. People are surprised when I tell them that I’m an electrical engineer because they aren’t expecting an engineer to be in a dress and talking about elaborate crafts or sponsored recipe creation. It can be empowering to know that you don’t fit the mold of what people expect from your profession or appearance. Conversations change a bit when you are talking with a hosting company at a blogging conference and start asking questions regarding the specifications of their servers.
So keep encouraging girls to play with STEM toys and explore technology, but don’t throw out those Princess dolls or dress up clothes in the process. Young girls need to know that they can explore math and science without having to give up their love for all things glitter, pink, and girly. The world needs engineers who think differently and enjoy many aspects of life – including cute clothes, makeup, and accessories. These are the engineers who will come up with the newest wearable device or fashion app that changes the world.
Being a Princess and an Engineer aren’t mutually exclusive. Encourage girls to love fashion and be girly while solving calculus equations or programming the newest app. Embracing both sides of who they are will allow them to flourish and bring a unique, creative view to an analytical world.