Pledge to Let the Girls in Your Life Tinker

Girl in overalls learns how to check the oil in family car with her dad.
March 26, 2015

When Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, was a kid, he used to take apart and reassemble electronics in the garage with his father. Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos spent his childhood laying pipeline and repairing windmills on his family farm.

Many of the biographies of the best-known innovators of our time are filled with childhoods of taking things apart and putting them back together. And too few of these famous innovators are women.

AAUW research shows that girls and boys perform equally well in math and science by most measures — especially when parents and teachers remind girls that if they stick with a subject, their intelligence will grow.

But by middle school, boys tend to express more interest in and positive attitudes toward math and science. By high school, girls fall behind, as boys are more likely to take the standardized exams and accelerated classes associated with engineering and computing. And the numbers of women in these fields grow smaller and smaller the further down the career path you look.

The problem isn’t that boys are better. It’s that girls (and boys and parents and teachers and even employers) see them that way.

How can we stop this trend? By doing something that parents do with their children every day: Build their confidence, validate their curious minds, and let them do what they love.

That means letting the girls in your life get dirty. Let them wear out the knees in their clothes and get dirt under their nails. Let them take apart their toys and find out how they work. Don’t let your concern about their politeness or cleanliness get in the way of their delight in exploring the world around them. And don’t let your fear of seeing them fail stop them from finding their own solutions.

Why not let girls tinker?

It sounds simple, but it can make the path that much wider for the girls in your life. Girls who are given the freedom to explore and discover things for themselves are more likely to grow into women who confidently explore fields like engineering and technology — where women are sorely needed. Whether it’s with Legos, Lincoln Logs, or the broken kitchen toaster, give the girls in your life room to explore.

Parents, teachers, relatives, and advocates for girls: You can make a difference. Will you take the pledge with AAUW to let the girls in your life tinker?

I pledge to let the girls in my life tinker.

Solving the Equation is made possible by these generous supporters: the National Science Foundation, Research on Gender in Science and Engineering award 1420214; AT&T; and the Mooneen Lecce Giving Circle.

Kathryn Bibler By:   |   March 26, 2015