There was a piece in Code Like A Girl recently that created a lot of debate over how to attract girls into STEM. This thread really captures for me a lot of the issues as I see myself and my experiences in those described.
The debate also leads quite nicely to this article,
Where are the women in STEM?
There is also a social aspect that contributes to the unpopularity of STEM with females. The stereotype of a female scientist is not glamorous; it’s bulky glasses, questionable and overly modest outfits, and social awkwardness. In a society that highly values the beauty and sex-appeal of women, many young girls see this inaccurate caricature and turn away.
There are a lot of ‘unfeminine’ girls who want nothing to do with dresses and pink, but looking back over my own childhood with a critical eye I have recently begun to realise that I had no problem with dresses or pink until I realised I wanted to be a scientist. I was happy wearing shorts or skirts until I realised that skirts weren’t ‘sciencey’. I think we need to ask ourselves whether science is something that appeals only to tomboyish girls or whether we are forcing them to choose their femininity or their passion.
Damned If You Do… Banal Gendered Exclusions in Academia, Babies and ‘Dinner with Other Candidates’
This is a really important piece that highlights the gender disparity in having kids while trying to have an academic career.
While being a dad is seen in academia as a sign of maturity, having a bit of that elusive ‘work-life balance’, I would run the risk of provoking anxiety (‘Will she want another one? Will she take time off?’).
My children help my science
This piece shows how having children doesn’t mean you can’t be a good researcher. I like it because it shows that having a life outside of your research doesn’t isn’t the impediment it’s sometimes made out to be.
I don’t dispute that having children can hamper women’s careers in science and that gender bias is alive and well. But I hope that by sharing how my children improve my research practice, I can help change the culture of research institutions. Children are not just career interruptions, and parents can come back to work as more insightful and effective scientists.