Just the other day, I had a talk with my youngest son. One of the courses he’s taking is a statistics course, although it has a much more complicated name. He said that he’s had to relearn some math that he hasn’t used in a couple of years because he’s just “not a math person.”
It’s something I’ve often said about myself. Also, that I wasn’t a “science person.” I was an English person, a literature person, and yes, a history person. Now as I find myself writing STEM books about amazing women in the fields of marine biology, meteorology, paleontology, and coding, I realize how I limited myself by using such phrases. In fact, I put myself in a box and all but threw away the key.
Actually, I was good at math once, but when my majors didn’t require math in college, I didn’t take any. I took only two science courses—zoology and astronomy—because I was required to take a life science and a physical science. And now, I find that I regret not learning more math and science. I am fascinated by space, genetics, the environment, and growing things. I think digging in the ground to find evidence of past life is fascinating. So is being able to accurately predict weather in order to save lives.
It’s not that I wasn’t exposed to STEM as a child, although they didn’t call it that back then. My father was an engineer. When I was young, he worked in aeronautics and going to work included having a slide rule in his pocket. By the time I understood what engineering was, he had moved into mechanical engineering and doing stress analysis. But did I know any women engineers? I don’t think I knew women who even worked outside of the home.
My mother is a wonderfully creative person. During my childhood, she took care of the home and family. She organized the PTA both as a homeroom mom and as a PTA president. And she mastered every type of craft she attempted. In between, she worked on an accounting degree. After I started college, she switched to education, earning both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in it and working as a special education teacher until her retirement.
Would things have been different had I been exposed to women in STEM fields? Perhaps not. I still believe I’m a writer at heart and prefer telling other people’s stories (both real and fictional). But sometimes I feel a tinge of regret and wonder “what if?”
What if I had believed I was a math person or a science person? Perhaps I would have made contributions to slow climate change or created environmentally conscious landscapes or made genetic discoveries for cell science. For now, I choose to write about women who do these things.
Perhaps there’s a young girl out there wondering what she will do when she grows up. And she needs to know that anything is possible.