Employers are very worried that so few women are going into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at a time when we need all the STEM talent we can get. Many believe society sends girls and women subtle messages that STEM is not for them.
Or maybe not so subtle... Get a load of these pages from two companion sticker books, one for young boys and the other for young girls:
The first page is from My Brilliantly Blue Sticker Book; the second, from My Perfectly Pink Sticker Book. The first encourages boys to count astronauts, planets and satellites. The second encourages girls to count decorative pillows.
A colleague picked these books up at a major metropolitan bookstore last year (not in 1950) and found that their contents were even worse than their titles. The boys' book features wild animals, cars, "mighty movers" (trucks and construction equipment), dinosaurs, and space. The girls' book focuses on mostly domestic animals, shapes and colors, toys, and home.
The "Space" and "Home" chapters are a study in contrasts. The boys have to guide a space shuttle through a maze to a space station; the girls have to take children through a maze to bed. The boys must find a missing planet; the girls must find a missing bathroom item. The boys draw lines between rockets and the boys who want to fly them; the girls draw lines between household chores and the girls who are doing them. And so on...
Women earn only about 35 percent of all college degrees and certificates in STEM fields -- including just 18 percent of engineering and computer science degrees. Recent research has found that second graders already believe that math is for boys. Why? One reason is that they are simply awash in garbage like this from an early age.
So what's the solution? Publishers: don't print stuff like this. Parents: don't buy it. Everyone else: call this kind of thing out when you see it. Let our young girls know that they, too, can become scientists, engineers or astronauts.
Sally Ride, a founder of Change the Equation, devoted her life to sending that message. Books like these are an affront to her legacy.
Follow Linda Rosen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/changeequation