A few years ago, I was out collecting data for a mall redevelopment in Salt Lake City and had my headphones tuned into NPR. As I worked I heard part of Larry Summers’ infamous lecture on diversifying science and engineering.
At the time Mr. Summers was president of Harvard, and in his lecture he postulated that there aren’t as many women in science and engineering because of “issues of intrinsic aptitude” (or lack thereof). I found his remarks puzzling but finished my data collection and headed back to the office.
I’m an engineer, writer, and woman. I’m not an academic. However, I can tell you why there aren’t more women in science and engineering, and it has nothing to do with intrinsic aptitude.
It’s because being different is hard. It’s much easier falling in line with expectations.
When I told my darling grandmother I was majoring in engineering, she scolded me, “What?! So you can wear coveralls and crawl around in attics all day?”
At university, there were the occasional anonymous creepy notes. Once while working in the computer lab at 2 am, someone inside the lab hijacked my computer screen and started sending me updates about my personal appearance. I bought a bike, so I wouldn’t have to walk home alone in the dark.
Now I found engineering, the profession, to be mostly welcoming towards women. However, stupid people seem to gravitate towards minorities. On my second day of school, a tall boy walked up to me and said, “I don’t know why they let women into school here. It takes more spots away from men, who will be the bread winners after all.”
I believe in the power of words. Even false ideas said over and over again start sounding like truth. So we must give our daughters different words to live by.
Here are three stories to help them change the tune.
For a pdf copy of the engineering paper dolls click here.
For a pdf copy of the firefighter paper dolls click here.
For a pdf copy of the scientist paper dolls click here.
I made the dolls interchangeable. So if you want Barbara to be a firefighter or Leela to be a scientist, you can mix and match.
When I pitched the idea for this paper doll series on my Facebook Page, I received a tremendous response. I loved the range of suggestions for other non-traditional paper dolls. In the coming months, I plan to make more. In the mean time, if you have a career suggestion for my collection, please tell me in the comment section.
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