One of the panels I went to was about reaching Women in Engineering through Social Media. Overall, it was all very good, especially the insight of Social Media’s current reach and the behaviors of High School and College aged girls over these networks. And, while I do feel that some math and science activities need to be reframed in a way to reach girls, there is a way to go too far.
Take Click!Online for instance. It’s a very well-meaning website dedicated to STEM Outreach over at BrainCake.org. They have girl scout-esque exercises with the premise that users are spies and exercises and missions will gain them badges. It’s a great format! The premise and design however is not. When the website was described, I had in mind something very much like Kim Possible, a Disney cartoon about a girl who was a freelance teen-aged spy who kicked ass and never wore pink in any episode I can remember off the top of my head. What Click!Online looks like is a back to school sale for the Limited. I can’t get past the front door because I can tell it’s not for me. I can also say that it won’t be for any girl I’ve mentored or any of my friends’ daughters.
To me, it looked like a design firm was given some spec and at some point during the process the phrase was said, “Girls LOVE this stuff!” Maybe some but I would think enough would feel confused and stereotyped if not outright offended. It’s important to look at what the target audience is looking at now. I may hate it myself, but look at any Young Adult / Tween book cover and you will see the pink minimized. Take the Ghallagher Girl Series by Ally Carter. It’s about girls who go to a spy academy. The first book cover has a pink background toned down by neutrals and earth tones. The second is blue with light pink in the plaid. The next is green and black. Girls do not need by be inundated with pink to know it’s targeted for them. It’s a matter of understanding that girls know what they like and not treating them like Computer Scientist Barbie.
I was never a girly girl. I was okay for the most part, but I did get from a lot of sides that many things might have been easier if I bought into the program, so to speak. I would go so far as to acept t that it might have been the root of many of my social anxieties. A lot of the girls I knew who liked math and computers were just like me, tomboys. Pink as a marketing ploy always makes me nervous. It always told me I was not feminine enough to hang with the target market. It’s the flip-side of Brogramming.
Positions like this tell me that a large segment, even among STEM outreach, still believes I can’t be a successful female just because my peers have accepted a love of shopping, cooking, and beauty products. Why can’t I like video games, sports, and tv just because it fit into a stereotype that shouldn’t fit me? Isn’t that the point? Getting women into the industry regardless of how they spend their down time and not be judged by it? Pink tells girls that if you don’t fall in line, you need not apply.
I’m a nerd. I’m a gamer. I’m a girl. I’m fine with that. It’s about time you are too.