They’re talking about brilliant female scientists on the radio. It reminds me of an experience I had in approximately 1971 when I was planning to enroll daughter Susan (age 6/7) into a summer program at our local community center.
Identified as a highly gifted child, Susan was totally into science. She loved learning about insects, snakes, lizards, shells, rocks and dinosaurs — you name it.
Reading the available programs, I saw a cooking class for girls and a science class for boys. I recognize that cooking is a science, but it wasn’t Susan’s thing and I knew it. I was upset. Would I accept that? Of course not!
I visited the center, had a discussion with the program director and threatened that if they didn’t allow my daughter into the science class, I’d march outside their doors with signs complaining about their old-fashioned thinking. Yes, I WAS really angry.
The female program director caved. Susan was allowed into the class, however, I hadn’t foreseen what followed. When she turned up for the class, the surprised boys loudly complained. “Yuck! A girl!’ ‘You’re not allowed in this class.’ ‘You don’t belong here!’
The poor kid. I’d placed Susan in a position where she was not welcome. The boys bullied. They pulled her hair. They saw her as an intruder. I didn’t argue when Susan very soon didn’t want to go anymore.
I also still wonder what that terrible experience did to her. Would she have followed a different career path if it hadn’t occurred? What did I accomplish after all?
What I do know I accomplished was I did convince the community center to change their policy. I told them they were unfair and outdated. They changed their future description of classes for children and no longer classified them according to sex.
I’d like to think that later perhaps one or two girls, luckier than Susan, had the opportunity to become excited about science in a class — and who knows? Maybe one or two of them has or will win a Nobel Prize after all. (However, the fight is far from over.)
P.S. Susan has found her own way of using her scientific interests and ability in her life’s work in any case.