This whole thing about women and girls and technology and achievement and how we talk about all of it – it’s real.
Just last week I was talking to a young woman about her post-college job search. “There are some companies I’m interested in but their online job descriptions say that I need 2+ years of experience. I don’t have that so I’m not applying.”
And I remember being that girl. Thinking, “gosh, these companies must get a lot of applications, and I’m sure they discard the ones that don’t meet their published guidelines right away.” But being on the other side now, I know that’s not how it works. I know that someone graduating from a top school with two summers of real internship experience would at least be worth a phone interview.
I also know (being a hiring manager) that men don’t have the same reaction to job descriptions They don’t think “I don’t have this one qualification,” they think, “I have all these other qualifications.” It’s a real thing – HBR even wrote up a study on it.
Then the other night I gave babyDiva a new toy. It had platforms that snapped together, and gears you put on the platforms, and she had a great time figuring out how it worked. She took to calling the platforms “tracks” and kept furrowing her brow and muttering how “this track needs to go with this track” with the seriousness of a two-and-half-year-old.
When it came time to clean up, she put the pieces away, then looked carefully at the box. “There girls on here?” she said.
She was asking if there were pictures of girls on the box. As in, “is this a toy girls play with?”
I tried to remain calm. “Are you asking if girls play with this? Sure! This toy is for everyone. Did you like it?” I said. But inside I was scared. I was worried. How is it that my two-and-a-half year old was already picking up the message that this toy might not be for her. I work in tech – it made me feel like Peggy Orenstein, acclaimed feminist author of, among other books, Cinderella Ate My Daughter. We praise babyDiva for being strong as much as we do her appearance, she has tons of building toys and truck books. How was this categorization already going on in her head?
Well, lesson one in parenting is that you can’t control your kid’s experience. Still, I was disturbed by her question. Much as I was disturbed by my young friend’s inclination not to apply for the jobs she didn’t meet the requirements for.
How do we change this? How do we build young women so they know they’re allowed to apply for jobs that they don’t fit 100%? How do we build young girls so they know they can play with any toys they like?
I with this post ended with a grand solution; but I don’t know how to solve this. I just know I have to do everything in my power to make it different for the women around me.