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No Skirting Around STEM Careers For Girls - Simone Cariss, Co-founder Girls Uniform Agenda

The career landscape for girls and women is changing. There’s a groundswell of support for girls to aspire to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) careers. That’s where the jobs of the future are forecast to be. STEM careers are a big shift away from the pathways that girls have traditionally pursued. It’s not just a matter of telling girls to take up these careers and choose maths and science subjects at school. There is a huge amount of work required to smash through some of the rigid gender stereotypes that have existed for generations that have led to STEM careers being dominated by men. Let Toys Be Toys Take toys – the pink beauty kit sitting on the shelf alongside the blue doctors kit. Toys have been targeted at boys and girls using colour for decades. Rigid roles for boys and girls which are damaging for all. Girls see the pink beauty kit and get the message that this toy (and perhaps career) is for them. Boys also see the pink beauty kit and say that’s not for me, it’s pink! The blue doctors kit is what I should play with. If we want equal pay how about we start with equal play? Don’t get me started on clothing Boys see messages of strong, powerful, superheros and boys having big ideas. Girls t-shirts display messages like pretty, princesses, unicorns and girls having big smiles. Spare me. My daughter (she’s 8 now) started noticing these things early. When she was in prep, age 5, she started making comments like “I can’t run in this thing (pointing to her heavy winter tunic), I can’t keep up with the boys. I can’t ride my bike to school most days now”. Her questions continued day in, day out. “Why can’t I wear pants like the boys?”. Why can’t you? How do I tell my daughter that the answer is, “Because you are a girl.” Because You Are A Girl Because you are a girl you will miss out on riding your bike to school. Because you are a girl it will be harder for you to be active at recess and lunch so you will sit on the sidelines. Because you are a girl you will (eventually) become conscious of your undies being on display so you’ll stop cartwheeling and hanging from the monkey bars. Because you are a girl you will quickly learn that how you look is more important than anything else. Woah. I hope that sounds as terrible to you as it does to me. We got the dress code changed at my daughter’s school. But only after a fight. Women At Work Do you know what else we have heard from schools leaders and school P&C’s about dresses for girls. They say, “Dresses are required for girls as it prepares them for the world of work”. Yes it is 2017, you are not reading an article from the 1950’s. It is these same school leaders that want their girls to step into STEM careers, yet they don’t seem to realise how conflicted their message is. Girls, make sure you do science and maths and engineering. Take on these traditionally male dominated industries. But make sure you do it in a dress. *eye roll* Employers can’t make women wear dresses, it’s illegal. Girls at school should have the same right to choose. Even if it’s not your preference to wear the pants, empower the girl sitting next to you, who just wants to ride her bike to school or kick the footy at lunchtime. I would love to see more girls standing together with their fellow girl demanding fairness and choice. Take a look at some of the awesome women who shared photos for a recent ‘women at work’ campaign. These are the messages young women need to be seeing. Such diverse and powerful women rocking their world of work. That’s how you’ll get women into a diverse range of careers, including STEM. Show them women who are doing it. Break down the gender stereotypes that women need to wear dresses and love pink (it’s ok if you do, but it’s definitely ok if you don’t!). Girls Invent is doing the hard yards in empowering young women to believe in themselves, equipping them with the skills to create and invent. But there’s also years of bias and stereotyping to be undone before all girls will feel confident and empowered enough to truly believe they can do anything. We know girls want to be judged on their ability, not their looks, so let’s make sure we get the basics right. If you want more information on creating positive change for girls in regards to school uniforms please visit for more information. (Photo credit: @LefaSN on Twitter)

Simone, is a mum of two, who is passionate about gender equality and is the co-founder of Girls Uniform Agenda. Simone is a registered Occupational Therapist working in the area of hand trauma rehabilitation and she also takes a strategic role in the family printing company. Simone has contributed to our Summer newsletter.

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