Somehow it is 2015 and schools in the US are still perpetuating the idea that science careers are just for boys. A Florida school is under fire this week after its PTA arranged a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) career night just for the boys. Girls had their own event–a “Daddy Daughter Dance.”
STEM careers are in-demand and generally very highly paid, so it makes good sense to educate children and young adults about the options that might be available to them in those fields. Boys and girls could obviously both benefit from knowing about STEM careers. Women are severely underrepresented in STEM fields, and schools are not helping when they do things like host STEM career nights just for boys and leave the girls out, but apparently that is still happening.
According to Jezebel, the PTA at the Audubon Park Elementary School in Orange County, Florida, scheduled a campus event with the Orlando Science Center to teach boys how cool science is. A flier invited “mothers and sons” to come enjoy “awesome experiments in STEM presented by the Orlando Science Museum” along with ice cream. But the fact that it was only targeted to the boys in the class left several parents deeply perturbed.
Helena Zubkow, a web developer and mother of two boys at the school, started a petition to convince the school to open the event to girls as well.
“As a woman in tech myself,” she said, “I was like, no way is this gonna happen.”
“Women in STEM fields are still outnumbered like crazy,” Zubkow told MTV News. “In my C++ programming class in college, I sat down on the first day and I was the only girl in the class. The guy next to me looked over and he said, ‘Oh sorry, this is the C++ room.”
Zubkow maintains that the awesome STEM ice cream night and the “daddy-daughter dance” are not comparable events, because the STEM event is an educational opportunity, and the school should not be making educational opportunities available just to boys.The dance, on the other hand, is a social function that might be fun, but has no actual academic merit.
Organizers said that they designed the STEM night because they already had the dance for the girls and did not think the boys would want to go to a dance, so they decided to create something different. The intentions were good, but the execution is highly unfortunate and inappropriate. Excluding girls from STEM events is bad for girls and boys. As one mother of two boys at Audubon Park explained, “I don’t want them thinking that only they can participate in things involving science, math, engineering, and technology.”
The school pointed out that the events were designed by the parents’ organization, not the school itself, but Zubkow’s petition was successful and the PTA has announced on its website that girls would be welcome at the STEM ice cream night. Science and ice cream sounds way better than a Daddy/Daughter dance anyway.
(Photo: Steve Debenport/iStockPhoto/Getty Images)