Sally Ride’s company helps teachers raise students’ interest in science. Sally Ride is a good STEM role model (speaking of role models) wouldn’t you say?

“Ride, 58, spoke to Reuters after appearing at a round-table discussion in Boston on gender equity and educating girls in the areas of math, science and engineering.” And what did she have to say?

“The message that our culture sends to kids is that science isn’t cool, that science is really hard. In 5th and 6th grade kids start to internalize that. Everyone wants to be normal at that age. It’s very important to counter those messages, and to make the teachers aware of this too. Often teachers don’t realize how pervasive the messages are.”

Yep, so everyone immediately STOP saying science is HARD. Please. She goes on to talk about the importance of role models. And medicine now has so many more women, indeed it has reached a critical mass, so there isn’t the stigma that girls can’t be doctors. Wouldn’t you think this would be the  trajectory for computer science as well?

Then she had this question…

Q. When you studied physics at Stanford in the 1970s, did it bother you that you were one of the few women in the program? Empower you?

A. “I honestly didn’t think about it one way or another. I was oblivious to it. That negative peer pressure didn’t really have an effect on me. It did on a lot of my friends, though, and it still happens.”

Obviously there will always be girls and women who don’t care about the peer pressure and are able to forge ahead. But it also makes it strange that women who are oblivious to peer pressure would implement a program to relieve those stereotypes. Maybe we need to teach more girls not to care about peer pressure?  Honestly, I do think any programs to encourage girls in STEM are great, but do you see what I mean?

Oh, dear, she totally evades admitting to being a “feminist” role model by saying: 

“It’s very, very important for girls and young women to have role models and to put female faces on any profession they choose.  There have been many women in space, but I’m the one that people remember. That gives me a major responsibility to talk to girls, to young women — to help them appreciate that these are careers that are wide open for women.”

Agreed, but are you a feminist, Sally Ride? We’re hoping so.