I recently read a statistic about Canadians in STEM careers, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math careers which are generally dominated by men. Only 22% of Canadians in STEM careers are women. It got me thinking about gender roles and stereotypes and the struggles that come with those.
Growing up in the 80s and 90s I was always called a tomboy – a term I grew to loathe. I liked baggy clothes, hated the colour pink, loved playing baseball and video games. I also loved crafts, Barbies and babies and I hated wearing dresses. I didn’t fully understand why this was a problem, but it was and it defined who I thought I was. I grew up across decades that had very clear definitions of what girls did and what boys did. My likes and dislikes didn’t fit in just one category; I sat nicely in the middle.
Fast-forward to 2018. I grew up and still sit nicely in the middle of those not so clearly defined categories anymore. I’m raising an incredible little girl who is just like me, in a tinier package. She loves Ninja Turtles and fancy dresses. She spends her days crafting, building, coding and rock climbing. She picks up bugs and draws rainbows on the sidewalk with chalk. She is not defined as a tomboy, she is defined only by her love of life.
Just like her, I was given so many different opportunities to decide who I wanted to be. Although my mom wished just a little (maybe more than a little) that I’d want to wear a pink tutu and jump around in a ballet class, she bought me my first ball glove and cheered the loudest in the bleachers at every game.
Every little girl deserves every opportunity to make her own decisions about who she is and who she wants to be. That statistic made me realize the importance of empowering my little girl, and every little girl I teach to be exactly who they are; to be defined not by gender stereotypes but by the joy and love they approach life with. As a teacher I strive everyday to give all of my students opportunities to explore their world in different ways – ways that make them think, ways that make them question. If we don’t give our kids these opportunities, how will they ever know? I want to empower my little girls to change gender stereotypes, to break molds, to define themselves in whichever ways they want. I want to empower them to question, to think, to be bold and brave. I want to empower them to make their own statistics.
She was one of the rare ones
So effortlessly herself,
And the world loved her for it.