This post takes a slightly different tack than previous, but focuses on another topic close to my heart. Recently, several female volcanologists in DEVORA, as well as many others around the world, shared messages to encourage young girls who may not think they are as smart as boys (the messages are in the link at the bottom of this post). Recent research suggests some girls feel this way starting around age 6! This is unacceptable.
I was very lucky growing up. The fact that I was a girl never seemed to matter when it came to my future career or extracurricular activities. My dad used to take me on plumbing jobs with him and taught me which tools to use when and what they were called. He also taught me how to hunt, clean and shoot a gun, cast a fishing rod, gut a deer and rabbit, swing a bat, drive a backhoe and boat, catch and throw a baseball, and helped my sister and I construct a wooden playhouse and install a basketball hoop in our backyard. My mom listened to me, encouraged me, let me choose my own activities, and stayed up all hours to help me with my schoolwork or projects. They both constantly told me (and still tell me) how proud they are. In their own ways, my parents each communicated to me in words and in their actions that I could do the things I wanted to do, no matter how crazy or unrealistic or stereotypically ‘male’ they were. The other adults in my life followed suit.
As a result of awesome adults, it didn’t click with me that my gender mattered to the world in terms of my career choice until I was nearly grown up. When I was 6, I told everyone who asked that I wanted to be the first female President of the US, first because it was appalling to me that it hadn’t happened yet, and second because I could not see any barriers as to why I couldn’t be the first. It actually worried me that someone else might beat me to it! I remember getting a few laughs from adults, but they were also pretty impressed. While I eventually grew out of wanting to be a politician or lawyer, it wasn’t because I didn’t think I could be either–it was because I found something else I wanted to be more (environmental engineer, then environmental scientist, then geologist–all of which happen to be male-dominated fields!).
I think the sort of faith and encouragement that was shown to me when I was young is what kids need to believe in themselves while they are still finding their place in the world. Because of my parents’ and other adults’ faith in me, I never learned to doubt that I could do whatever I set my mind to, and consequently I have never faltered in my belief in myself, or accepted that I couldn’t do something because of my gender. I’d love for girls today to have that same confidence, and that is what we are trying to instill with our messages and by stepping up and becoming visible in their worlds.
In the blog post (link below), you’ll find profiles and messages from myself (Elaine), DEVORA co-leader Jan Lindsay, and DEVORA PhD Sophia Tsang, all from the University of Auckland. The post also links to several great resources for kids (particularly girls) who would like to explore geology as a career or learn more about what volcanologists or folks in the geosciences do. It was truly an honour to participate in this worthy mission!
Check out the blog post here!