Girl Geeks

My daughters DJ is a geek.

While some of you may be saying “what a shock” given I am a technology geek married to a comic book geek, I think this is more important that some people may realize.

DJ loves being a geek.

Call her science geek. Her response will likely be “so what? I like science. if that makes me a geek, then good”

I joked with her the other day that I was going to take away her Green Lantern comics when she, in the middle of the previews, freaked out at the trailer for the Green Lantern movie.  I think she talked more about the trailer than she did the actual movie.

She loves math. She loves science. She loves art. She loves reading. She’s currently obsessed with mythology. She reads comics. She loves to bake.  And she’s a geek. She loves it.

Why is this revelation important, you may ask.

In the tech world, there has been this ongoing debate about the number of women in technology. One side goes on and on about the fact that women are not entering the tech field. That if you look at the innovation over the past 20 years, there are few women in that list.  This side further goes on to say that there needs to be more done to get women into those roles.

The other side is asking “so what”. They will actually go on and on explaining why women are simply not cut out to be these “geeks”. That innovation is not a female thing – men are more equipped for it, thus the inequity.

On side screams one way, the other side screams the other.  And last week, Violet Blu asked why.  Why is it important for women to be in those innovative roles? What is the point?  What will happen if there are more women? Everyone is screaming foul, but no one is talking about the downside.  So, she asked that question.

For me, it has less to do about the women and more to do about the girls.  Until someone opened up that door for me when I was in high school, I never would have pursued the technology field. I was going to go after something considered more acceptable.  I was going to do it not because I thought it was all that was offered me, but because I did not know there were options for me – a girl who understood computers, wrote programs for friends in the programming class, did my friends computers homework (for a class I never took), and was good at math and science.

If you had asked me at 16 if I wanted to be an engineer, I would have thought trains were involved.  Why? I was in rural Iowa where the men teaching those classes were not giving the lingo or the options to the women.  And the women teaching? They were teaching English or Spanish or Home Ec.  No women teaching science, math, social studies or any of the positions where girls who were good in those subject would be given guidance. If you were good in math, then you made a good tutor. That was it.

Junior year, that all changed when we got a woman math teacher.  She turned things upside down at the school too because – shock – she was also a feminist.  She encouraged the girls. She gave them an introduction to what they could do in the world with their skills.  She took us to conferences – and she pushed hard.  She knew anyone going down those paths would be faced with challenges – so she never coddled us.  And she never let us hide our intelligence from anyone.

As a result, of the 5 girls in her advanced math classes (the classes none of the men could teach by the way) four of us went into fields of technology.  I think I am the only one who did not get an advanced degree.  All are successful, happy, and look back at the teacher as a role model.

And that is why girls need women in technology fields – they need role models.  They need people to look up to and see their options.  But they need people closer to the girls to nurture their interests. They need people to show them options – to let them be geeks – and show them that being a geek is cool.

For me, the issue is not about women being in lead innovators in technology. I think that would be cool, but it isn’t what I would strive for.

I think it is more important that we show the girls their options. And the people they will believe more than anyone, are the ones who have been there.  Showing they have options will make sure the girls who chose to go that direction do so not because they are bucking the system, but because they actually had it as an option.

And the women who embrace their geekiness and show it’s okay – that being a geek doesn’t mean you will die alone, you can’t be creative, you can’t be girly. It just means you are good at something that is geeky. Nothing more.

And that’s why I smile when DJ declares she is a geek.
She owns it.
She embraces it.
I can think of worse things to be.

I just love that fact the boys are in awe of it.  Now that is one thing that seems to be have changed. Much to G’s dismay.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Dana says:

    When I left for college (1982) I was hell bent on being an architect and/or mechanical engineer. My first semester included an engineering drawing class taught by a professor who was in his late 50’s or early 60’s. I was the ONLY female in the class.

    I worked hard. I did my best. My drawings were every bit as good (and often better) than my male counterparts’ were … yet I consistently received D’s on my work.

    By mid-term I decided to confront my prof. He told me that engineering was NOT a field for women and that no matter how hard I worked in his class, I would never get any grade better than a D.

    Years later, I realized that I let him win when I dropped that class and went another direction with my studies (he would have been the prof for most of my engineering class).

    It’s that attitude, less in your face but still quite prevalent, that keeps women out of technology.

    It’s also why I (like you) celebrate the DJ’s of the world. They will have the opportunity to make change!

  2. GoodWill says:

    I think that’s AWESOME, especially that she embraces it and is comfortable with it. As a guy geek growing up, I was always awkward and unwilling to embrace those parts of me – i fought against being a geek. And I was fairly unhappy through middle and high school as a result of that.

    So awesome for her, and to you for raising such a cool kid.

  3. Very cool. I hope she stays excited about it. 🙂

  4. Emmy says:

    Dana – I graduated high school almost 20 years ago and attended a “liberal” college. Except no one told the head of the computer science department that or a few of the math professors. I was told math was simply too hard for me by the same men that helped other male students create their own degrees thus avoiding the math. I was discouraged. Thankfully there were two professors who weren’t like them. Without them, I would have gone and done something else. And likely not been as happy. Like you, I am a bit more passionate about girls doing this stuff than others. I don’t want anyone to be faced what I was – even during our “more enlightened” age.

    GoodWill – I think most geeks were closeted back then. And we were all unhappy. I think times are changing – or at least I have hope that they are.

    MinorityReport – I do too. So far, she just seems to collect interests. Granted, it helps that she has two parents who feed it. 🙂

  5. Ashly Star says:

    This post made me smile. How awesome. I hope she’s always comfortable and secure in who and what she is. 🙂

  6. I think the geekness is AWESOME. Its also important for women to be in technology fields because they pay well, and money is kind of awesome.

  7. Maggie says:

    Yay DJ! I hope that confidence and embracing of the geekiness continues into high school and college.

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