Do We Need More Books About Women in STEM?

After a long wait, my latest books are out. The new Gutsy Girls Go for Science series comes from Nomad Press. I wrote two of the four releases, Paleontologists and Programmers. The other two are Astronauts and Engineers.

Yes, this makes two more books in my repertoire about notable females in exceling in non-traditional careers. They join two books I did for a Girls in Science Series: Marine Biology: Cool Women Who Dive and Meteorology: Cool Women Who Weather Storms (also Nomad Press). These were all written for 8-to-12 year old readers. Another couple of books, Women Aviators and Women in Space (Chicago Review Press) are for young adults.

Why more kid’s books about interesting women? Because girls need to know that “boy” jobs or “girl” jobs are a myth. They need to know about females who came before us, meeting with resistance, but persisting. Girls need to know that they can truly be whatever they want to be.

Let’s start with programmers. As Gutsy Girls Go for Science: Programmers shares, the earliest computer programmers were…female! Men were into the hardware until they realized that operating systems and software made all the difference in expanding who used computers.

By 1970, women earned only 13.6% of the bachelor’s degrees in computer science. That number rose to 37% by 1984, but by the time PCs came into our workplaces and homes, that percentage had been cut in half. Also since PCs became all the rage in the 1990s, the percentage of women working in the field dropped from 35% to 26% by 2013.

In paleontology, the odds are even worse. For a very long time, women were denied admission into professional science organizations even though women like Mary Anning made significant discoveries. And even once they were eventually admitted, women were supposed to stay in the labs or the classroom instead of doing fieldwork. Again, there were women who persisted. Many of them were subject to sexual harassment.

Women make up only 23% of the membership of the Paleontological Society. That number drops to 17% when you look at non-students, or the professionals. In the Earth Sciences, women earn 38% of bachelor degrees, 43.4% of master degrees, and 39.9% of Ph.Ds. Although most scientists with Ph.D’s work for universities, women make up only 16% of geoscience faculty in the United States. Furthermore, studies show that women are less likely to be hired, and when they are, they are subject to a lower salary (about $10,000 less for Ph.D’s) and sexual harassment. An excellent representation of women in the field is The Bearded Lady Project documentary.

We know things must change, and change comes from education and opportunities. STEM for girls programs like National Girls Collaborative Project and Girls Who Code help by exposing and encouraging girls to science and technology from a young age. And yes, this is why we need STEM books highlighting women in different fields. Professional organizations like the American Association of University Women pick up the ball once it reaches higher education.

We need technology and science organizations to step up and demand diversity in their fields. And more female mentors makes a world of difference for young girls wrestling with that age-old childhood dilemma–What do I want to be when I grow up?

The National Women’s History Alliance motto for this year is: Nevertheless, she persisted.

Books like Gutsy Girls Go for Science show us women who persisted. Let’s cheer on all females who demonstrate what’s possible.

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SCBWI Bookstop

Each year, the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators. holds a special event, Bookstop, showing children’s books published in that year. The 2019 SCBWI Bookstop is now out. Stop by and take a look.

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Free Fun 50

Oceans, mountains, ancient ruins, crossing borders, guitar building, iconic farmers markets, rain forests, Olympic swim trials, jaw-dropping bookstores, and cities with big personalities. That was family vacations in the Gibson home as my children were growing up. We had to count our pennies because there was never enough money, but I think we did all right.

Planning the vacations was my job, and to be honest, it was a job I resented. Why should I be the one to create routes and figure out what three boys and their parents were going to do? Not to mention how to pay for it all.

Because if I didn’t, we would be spending all our time camping in nearby state parks and federal lands over and over again. Don’t get me wrong, I love being in nature. And for a time, I didn’t mind sleeping on the ground and devising ways to keep our food out of the paws of wildlife. But I like novelty. So, I plotted and planned vacations. Some of our successes were:

A coastal drive to Disney World and Universal. I don’t have to tell anyone how expensive those theme parks are, but to my surprise, my kiddos enjoyed seeing Jackson Square and the Mississippi River in New Orleans. They also loved Gulf beaches like Destin…possibly more than Disney World.

A loop through northern New Mexico and southwestern Colorado took us through Ancestral Puebloan sites, climbing ladders as high as a multi-story building and pushing a toddler in a backpack through a tunnel, not to mention squeezing through a pregnant Mom. We wandered Albuquerque’s Old Town and took a train to an old mining town.

For another trip, we rented a condo on the Gulf Coast, but first we had to get there. I decided we would make Memphis a stop. We stayed cheaply in a cluster of casino hotels in Tunica, just south of the city across the state line into Mississippi. Luckily ours had a water slide.

In Memphis, we had a blast on Beale Street and touring Sun Records. And for my eldest, a guitar-playing pre-teen, we toured the birthplace of B.B. King’s guitar, that’s right, the Gibson Guitar factory. The National Civil Rights Museum moved us more than we expected.. Once we arrived at the ocean, beach play took up most of our time, but we traveled to an old fort on an island split in half by a hurricane. Pretty cool, huh?

I can be a slow learner, but eventually I realized I enjoyed planning trips and finding the hidden gems. It was like a treasure hunt. More often than not, trip highlights cost very little, if anything. So, I decided to take my experiences, add in a little research, and Wa-La, Free and Fun travel ideas! I decided I would provide information about 50 Free Fun travel ideas for different states. They might be quirky roadside attractions, free museum days, scenic drives, or festivals. What they all have in common is that they’re FREE and they’re FUN. Free Fun 50 or FF50 for short.

I started with states I know well—Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. And now they are available as inexpensive little e-books on Amazon. Plans are to expand to other platforms in the future. I also have a FF50 guide to Washington, DC, but currently that’s only available to people who have purchased 2 or more FF50 guides. Details on how to redeem FF50 Washington DC are on the FF50 Facebook page.

Happy Travels!

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NEW RELEASES COMING IN SEPTEMBER

Gutsy Girls discover dinosaurs, study fossilized poop, and find human’s early ancestors. And who was the first programmer? Who created the first programming languages and compilers that made personal computers possible? Gutsy Girls, that’s who. On, and Gutsy Girls were also responsible for getting men to the Moon.

September 24 marks the release of the first four Gutsy Girls Go for Science books by Nomad Press. And yours truly is author of two of those books. The Gusty Girl books use a fun narrative style with engaging illustrations to share fascinating facts and essential questions. And the STEM projects in the books aid young scientists in making real-world connections and deepen their critical and creative thinking skills.

Gutsy Girls Go for Science: Paleontologists asks the questions about what kind of life came before us. Readers ages 8 to 11 will meet five female paleontologists who made breakthrough discoveries of ancient life from millions of years ago, including Mary Anning, Mignon Talbot, Tilly Edinger, Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska, and Mary Leakey. These women all led fascinating lives while working in the field and in the lab, often facing challenges because of their gender.

Problem solvers who always need to know how things work will enjoy Gutsy Girls Go for Science: Programmers. Programming is the process of breaking down complex tasks into a set of instructions. Programmers do that when they write code that makes computers do what we want them to! Readers will meet female programmers who made revolutionary discoveries and inventions that changed the way people use technology! Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, the ENIAC women, Dorothy Vaughan, and Margaret Hamilton all broke through barriers of both gender and race to succeed in a field they loved.

It was a blast working on these books and getting to know these amazing women. I’ll never look at rocks or code the same way ever again.

The Gutsy Girls Go for Science books are now available for pre-order. Click on the books below. Enjoy!

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The Year of the Woman

The past year has been exciting as more women have been discovering their power and their legacy. It brings to mind the old Helen Reddy women’s anthem of the 1970s: I am woman, hear me roar. The “roaring” should continue to grow as we soon enter a year-long celebration leading up to the 100th anniversary of American women receiving the right to vote. Yep, the Nineteenth Amendment will be 100 years old on August 18, 2020.

And because women still needing to be heard and treated fairly, we can reach into women’s history to learn the stories of those who came before us. I have two more kid’s books coming out this September, bringing my total number of published books about women tied with the number of my published books about Native American history (and yes, one dream is to combine the two and write about amazing Native American women).

Women in science, technology, and politics. Women who were ignored or silenced, but still broke down barriers. Some of these are women I had never heard of when I was a child, but who are now becoming well-known. For example, in the upcoming Gutsy Girls Go for Science Paleontologists, I begin the book with the story of Mary Anning.

It’s hard not to come across the name of this British fossil hunter and paleontologist these days. In fact, a Google search gave up 1,350,000 results in 0.51 seconds. She’s all over educational websites, but she is also featured at events like the annual Lyme Regis Fossil Festival and captured in the movies. A two-part biopic is nearing completion, and another film, Ammonite, starring Kate Winslet, will be released in 2020.

And the other book, Gutsy Girls Go for Science Programmers, features two other rock stars—Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper. The world celebrates the first computer programmer and other women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) on the second Tuesday of October each year. This past year marked the 10th anniversary of Ada Lovelace Day, and each year sees more and more participants.

Various programs and awards are named after computer scientist Grace Hopper. The ACM Grace Hopper annual award goes to an outstanding young computer professional responsible for a major technical or service contribution. An early programmer of modern computers, Hopper was instrumental in developing programming languages that could work on different computers. Without this, would the PC have ever been born?

I think we’ll soon hear more about women like Sylvia Earle, Barbara McClintock, and Harriet Quimby—all women I’ve written about. Yet, even as more women from history are getting their due, there are still many more whose names we don’t know…yet. I can’t tell you how many times after a book’s publication that I’ve discovered an amazing woman I wished I had included. Women like:

  • Elizabeth Blackburn
  • Euphemia Haynes
  • Florence Siebert
  • Julie Packard
  • Maria Mitchell
  • Mary McWhinnie
  • Mary Sherman
  • Melba Roy Mouton
  • Pearl Scott

Have you heard of all of these women? Perhaps one or two ring a bell, but I’m betting there’s some you haven’t heard of. Start Googling and researching some of these names. Learn their stories. And then share them. It’s the Year of the Woman.

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