I never felt that Science was beyond the realms of possibility for me. In fact I made my mind up early on in my young academic life that I wanted to "be a scientist"... with very little understanding of what that actually meant, of course.
As I moved through school, my subject choices were always scientifically orientated and I studied honours maths, as I wanted to make sure every avenue was open to me. I think it helped that I went to an all girls school as there was no gender bias. I was completely free to excel in some areas and to figure out what wasn't for me, away from the expectations of what was "normal" for a girl to be interested in.
I did pursue science academically, coming out of college with two science degrees and even though I'm not in STEM now I look back on my formative years and feel so lucky that to me it was always an option. I grew up with an older brother who studied science I was always told that whatever he can do I can do too. I know that a lot of girls don't grow up with the same message and that's a tragedy. I hate to think how many brilliant young minds are being brainwashed with images of Barbie dolls looking pretty in pink and as they get older thinking that the size of their bum is more important than the size of their brain!
Girls need to be celebrated for their massive potential from a young age and this positive reinforcement needs to continue throughout their whole academic career. Who knows... the biggest scientific breakthroughs yet to happen in our lifetime could be locked inside the minds of girls who will make the wrong choice based on perceived ideas about societal norms.
A girl’s decision to take more classes in math or computer science may depend on whether she feels up to the challenge. But her confidence in her abilities may be lower than it should be. Even when male and female high school students receive the same math grades, girls tend to feel they are less competent than boys, a new study shows. And that may affect her choice to pursue science — or not.