Today, I saw the umpteenth tweet that linked to another article with a variation of a “Getting Girls to Like Math” post, and for the love of God, enough is enough.
I am so tired of hearing how girls don’t like math. Or how they don’t gravitate toward it. Or don’t have an aptitude for it – we’d like to think that in 2017 no one says things like that anymore, but it happens. Or all of the 9 million other reasons why STEM majors and industries are lacking in female representation reflective of the actual world. Or the progress that’s (not) being made on growing the numbers of women in STEM. Yeah, improving the numbers of women in your tech organization or on your development team from 3% to 6% isn’t really something to be patting yourself on the back over when 50%+ of the actual population is women.
And I’m not here with the answers. But here’s one big place where we can start, let’s stop saying girls aren’t interested in math. Drop the lame cop out of how girls don’t like math. First of all, lots of girls are interested in math. My 9-year-old loves math – as in does math in her free time, loves math. My mom loves math – as in gets excited about going to statistical analysis conferences and can’t decide which session to go to because they all look so great, loves math. And that’s literally just me rattling off the last two females I encountered today (save for my 5-year-old who has yet to start kindergarten and who is already asking me to quiz her on 1+4 or 1+3 or 2+2 is so she can excitedly give me the – usually correct – answer). I could go on and on naming a ton of women that I know who love math – and likewise, a bunch of dudes I know who don’t.
I’m not at all arguing that there isn’t a huge gap when it comes to women in STEM fields – there is. It’s pretty pathetic that in 2017 this level of disparity still exists, but it does. And yes, closing that gap is something that there should actually be a push to do.
I’m not arguing that math couldn’t be better taught – not just for girls, but for everyone – which is what we set out to do every day at 7 Generation Games.
But I am arguing that by repeating over and over this idea that girls “just don’t like math,” we’re doing a tremendous disservice to girls – not to mention society as a whole – when it seems like we’re so open to accepting that as a fact as opposed to figuring out what that really means and why.
Whenever I go to speak at middle and elementary schools about careers, I open my presentation with the question, “Who likes math?” And girls hands shoot up every time – as many if not more than boys. The question isn’t whether girls like math, it’s about the 9 million other things that drive them away from it – like being told they don’t like it, for one.
“Someone said girls don’t like math?” my 9-year-old asked me.
“Yes, lots of people,” I said.
“Well, I’m glad no one ever said that to me,” she said.
And so am I.