empowering innovation

Imagine you could mobilize 42 million grandmothers who are younger, healthier, better educated and more professionally experienced than grandmothers have ever been – all of whom want to make the world a better place for children. What would you ask them to do?

This was the last of the questions posed as an “idea” for the Grandmother Power campaign. And this is the one that got my mind racing.

What are the key words that jump out at me here?

better educated

professionally experienced

It took me a second, but then I realized. The 42 million grandmothers? Those aren’t my grandmas. Those are my mom. My mother-in-law. My friends.

The grandmothers of today are better educated and more professionally experienced. But do you know what? When I think of a grandmother, I still think of my maternal grandmother, cooking amazing meals in a tiny kitchen. I don’t think of a professional, business-oriented lady.

And I should.

And we all should.

Because if I could mobilize those grandmothers to do just one thing, it would be to empower the next generation of girls.

This is my passion. Remember a few weeks ago when I wasn’t quite ready to talk about what I am passionate about? This is part of the idea that was swirling around my head.

Too often girls and women settle.

They settle for something that they think is “good enough.”

They don’t set their expectations high.

I’m an engineer. A female engineer. A female electrical engineer. Some would say I’m a rarity. I certainly was while I was in school. I remember two other female electrical engineering students. Two. At a public university engineering college.

I became an engineer almost by default. A high school guidance counselor told me that since I was smart, I should consider engineering. I had no idea what engineering was. I guess I should be glad I decided to try it out. It’s been the most challenging and rewarding career I could have imagined. But I have no idea how I got here.

I want to change that. I truly believe every girl, and every student, should have a full STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education. And do you know how we change that? I’ll give you a hint: It’s not in the curriculum.

It’s not even really in the schools. Do you know what gets girls interested in pursuing STEM careers (and therefore STEM education)?

It’s who they have as role models. It’s having positive, real-world examples to look up to. It’s as easy as showing them examples of real women who are doing amazing work.

And do you know what?

If we train more women to be engineers, more scientists, more thinkers?

We change the world. Because these women will be the people who will come up with the innovations that will improve the world for our children, our children’s children, and their children too. These are the innovators. The bridge-builders. The CEO’s of tech companies. Women are already making a difference.

So if I could mobilize those 42 million grandmothers?

I’d have them share their stories. Tell their granddaughters what they did in their careers. Talk about the awards they received, the things they invented. How they changed the world.

Because by sharing their stories, they will do it again.

This is one of my favorite articles about this topic. I hope you have a few more minutes. It’s worth the time to read it.

You Matter: The Two Most Important Words in STEM


3 responses to “empowering innovation

  • Coming Soon: Grandmother Power | Running Unplugged

    […] I’ll come back and add a link to the post here when I get it written…here it is: https://runningunplugged.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/empowering-for-innovation/ […]

  • imarunner2012

    My daughter is an ME major at WPI. I’m not sure that either of her grandmothers had anything to do with that, except for genes!
    She decided in 8th grade that she wanted to go into engineering. I think doing tech work at a summer acting camp instilled an interest in building things and gave her confidence to work with tools and figure things out.
    There are many paths.
    John Stuart Mill said something about the foolishness of any society to only employ the talent and intelligence of half of their population.
    We need to get more of the other half into STEM fields.

    • Running Unplugged

      I agree. I know my grandmothers had virtually nothing to do with me becoming an engineer. But I really believe that this generation of grandmothers has an opportunity to have a strong impact on the next generations.

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