Anyone who has ever had to deal with a toddler gleefully repeating the profanity that they accidentally muttered under their breath knows that children learn even when parents aren’t trying to teach them. “Inspire Her Mind,” Verizon’s new commercial about girls and STEM, encourages parents to consider how their reactions influence their daughters’ attitudes.
STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math, areas where girls often fall behind their male peers. As Verizon’s commercial points out, more than 65 percent of fourth grade girls report liking science and math, yet women make up less than 20 percent of college engineering majors. As American schools make a stronger commitment to STEM education, parents are seeing a push to close that gender gap and encourage both boys and girls to study science and technology.
Why STEM Matters
In “Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation,” the U.S. Department of Commerce strongly links America’s ability to invent new products and technologies and to compete on a global scale to the nation’s STEM workforce. The report also notes that women are vastly outnumbered in STEM fields, pointing out that, while women hold nearly half of the nation’s jobs, they make up less than 25 percent of the STEM workforce. It’s not just the nation that’s missing out. According to the report, women in STEM jobs typically earn a third more than peers in non-STEM jobs.
As I watched Verizon’s commercial with my own daughter, I couldn’t help thinking about how many of the admonishments used to discourage the girl in the ad had come out of my own mouth. Reminding your child not to get dirty, urging her to put something delicate down, or asking her to step back when an interest verges on becoming an obsession are things most parents do at one time or another. But do we do it too often?
Balancing our need for safety and order against our child’s need for exploration and creativity is always tricky for parents. With “Inspire Her Mind,” Verizon reminds parents to think about their influence on their child’s view of the world and encourages them to support their child’s curiosity. My daughter dismissed the parental admonishments in the ad with a shrug and a comment about everything having a proper time and place. Then she started speculating on what kind of science fair experiments the girl could have come up with involving the starfish — and she had some pretty interesting concepts that we just might have to explore. Her reaction was reassuring, but I’m still going to think twice about what I say and how I say it.
Interested in reading more from Bree Shaw? Check out:
“Five Things Every Parent Needs — Even If They Don’t Know It!”
“How to Make Math Fun for Your Grade-Schooler”
“Why I Introduced My Child to Bill Watterson’s “Calvin and Hobbes”