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Verizon Viral Ad for Girls: What are We Telling Our Daughters about Math and Science?

It was a great Good Morning America segment this morning!  We focused on a new viral Verizon campaign and ad that questions whether it’s time to move from telling our girls that she’s simply “pretty” to telling them that they are “pretty brilliant” too. What are we telling our girls about their abilities in math and science?  Can we attract more girls into STEM?  We explored this topic.

Why are we seeing greater numbers of ads reaching out to young girls and women giving them the message they can be more?

First, let’s not forget that these companies want to sell products and in these ads they are appealing to big markets, women and girls. But aside from that, I think these companies are seeing that by moving away from looks and celebrating the strong minds of girls, they can inspire a larger pool of future game-changers.  These are the people who can invent something important and become the next generation of leaders in their companies. We are looking for leaders, not hood ornaments.

The ad quotes a statistic- 66% of 4th grade girls say they like science and math, but only 18% of all college engineering majors are female. So where does the disconnect happen? Is it the fault, as the ad suggests, of parents?

Parents get such a bad rap—but it’s not just parents, it’s society as a whole.  If a girl is interested in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math, many of the toys that support those interests are in the “boy” section, the protagonists of the majority of books & movies in this genre are boys—and while there are companies and wonderful grass roots efforts to change that, there is still a message we are working against that says STEM is not for girls and if you go in that direction you’re different, nerdy or boyish.

How does this play out with my own daughter?

My daughter is full of life and curiosity—and, as I tell her and my audiences when I present on this topic, you can’t fuel curiosity if you’re worried about getting your hands dirty. My daughter wanted to be a veterinarian now she wants to be a pediatrician.  She’s interested in science. So when she’s outside digging in the dirt, mud under her fingernails, a worm in her hand and not a care in the world, I say “go get ‘em girl.” That’s curiosity and learning at work.

What can parents do to help daughters reach their potential?

(1) Develop your child’s gifts.  Interests do not come with gender label on them.

(2) Compliment her on more than just her looks because she is so much more creative and nuanced than that.

(3) Develop her character.  Show her and tell her that powerful words like persistence, focus, goal-setting and commitment are vehicles to realizing her dreams if she simply chooses to employ them.

(4) Expose her to people and companies (large and grass roots) that believe that girls can be and do anything!

What are your thoughts about this topic?

Dr. Robyn Signature