Legos for the Ladies

So Lego has finally put out a Lego set for girls to encourage interest in STEM.

Well, mainly the S part I think, but it’s a start.

What I like most is how normal the lady Lego people look. Normal clothes, normal hair, with just a touch of pink that seems to say ‘hey, I can be a brilliant scientist and still enjoy looking fashionable.’

When Panda is old enough to not swallow the parts, I am going to buy the set for her.

Some critics say ‘why do we need to make such a blatant point that we are marketing to girls? Does it even matter? Kids play with what they like.’

And as a woman in the engineering field my response to that is yes, it does matter. We do need blatant marketing targeted to girls. It matters because we need to move away from a distinction between ‘boy toys’ and ‘girl toys’.

My favorite toys as a child were barbies and Legos.

And I was also reminded often by adults and peers the distinction between the two. Luckily I had parents that really encouraged me to develop my mechanical skills and were thrilled that I preferred Legos to other ‘girl toys’.

Would girl targeted Legos have benefitted me at that tender age?

You bet your Lego brick it would.

I didn’t receive any nudges from the world outside my home telling me it was ok to pursue technical skills. Math seemed to be acceptable for girls, though, so I excelled at that. But when I went to college, there was an unspoken gender gap in the engineering department.

It was cold and icy and unsupportive. I HATED being there. If I wasn’t snubbed or ignored, I was being hit on and condescended to by both faculty and my peers. It seemed to be the same for my few female classmates as well.

I had terrible grades.

Now I am not going to blame my college performance completely on sexism. I partied and played more than I studied. I earned those grades. But there was no encouragement to excel. Telling anyone my major made them laugh.

Laugh!

Because there was a stigma associated with women pursuing technical professions. This was only 15 years ago. The internet and tech boom should have overshadowed the gender divide in technology, but not the good ole boys of solid engineering curriculum, no siree bob.

I hated it, was given very little support or encouragement, and left school with an engineering degree by the skin of my teeth.

Then I moved to Austin to do ANYTHING but be an engineer. And I did that for about 5 years, until I thought, hey, I LIKE tech. I want to build things and I am bored to tears without any challenges in these other industries.

So I lucked up and found a few design jobs until I ended up with the MEP firm I am with now. I am one of the oldest associates here that isn’t a Professional Engineer yet and I probably have a ways to go to catch up with everyone.

Especially now that I intend to pursue my writing career and put this career on the back burner until my kids are older.

But what do I write? Science Fiction. What do I read? Science and Tech articles. My next project will likely be writing an Android App.

I am a STEM girl. I always wanted to be  STEM girl. I have struggled and managed to find a place, but I wish the struggle hadn’t been so hard.

I don’t want it to be hard for my daughter. She may not excel in or enjoy STEM, but I am going to make sure she has every opportunity to. I will encourage her and provide her with all the resources I can.

And it’s super cool that I can now include Lego lady scientists to those resources.

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