I'm a mom. I'm an engineer. And I'd like to think I'm the mother of two future engineers.
You see, I know a secret. An engineering degree is the proverbial golden ticket. When you graduate with one, you don't look for jobs, jobs look for you. That's my experience and it's exactly what I want for my daughters.
I'm not going to lie, engineering school isn't easy. It's hard. In fact, I was ready to quit it during my junior year in college. Thankfully, with the help of a "welcome to the real world" ultimatum, my parents persuaded me to see it out. And I'm so glad I did.
After graduating, I fell head-first into many exciting high-tech companies, which all helped prepare me for my current role with AT&T. At each company, I learned new skills and managed through experiences that helped me become a leader and strategic thinker. I firmly believe that some of my work has helped change the world ... and that's pretty darn cool.
That's why I'm committed to inspiring more girls to experience the wonders of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). You can bet that the two girls under my roof get a daily dose of STEM inspiration. It's easy for me to do it. It's my life. It's my passion. But most of the 30 million or so girls under the age of 14 in the United States don't have engineers for parents. And far fewer have a mom who's an engineer. I get it. It's difficult to advocate for something you just don't know.
As a parent or a teacher or a friend, however, you can make a difference by sending the right signals to girls and encouraging them to build things -- and break things -- right alongside their brothers. All too often, girls are steered away from math and science around middle school because that's the way our society has been programmed. We need to reprogram.
This problem really hit home for me when I took my two daughters to their weeklong summer programing classes this summer. When I dropped off my 8-year-old, I was delighted to see a classroom full of an equal number of girls and boys eager to create the next must-have smartphone app. But the very next week, when I took my 12-year old to her computer game design class, I was sad to see that she was the only middle school girl in the entire classroom. My daughter wasn't happy either and turned to me to say, "I told you so." She had rightly predicted that she would be the only girl in the classroom. Of course, this story is anecdotal, but the decline in girls' interest in STEM from elementary to middle school is very real and speaks volumes about the challenge our society faces.
As we celebrate Women's Equality Day today, I ask you to think about how you can inspire a girl in your life to change the world through STEM. If she wants to know how a light bulb works, research it with her. If she wants to build a volcano or a rocket, help her do it. If she wants to memorize pi to the 50th decimal point, support her number by number. It's all about STEM, and STEM will give her the foundation to succeed.
My hope is that, one day, when my daughter takes her 12-year-old daughter to an engineering and technology camp, she'll see a room filled with an equal mix of boys and girls and say, "I told you so."