“Initiatives to attract women to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) should focus on teachers and parents instead of on women.”
Recently, I was talking to high school girls about my profession, for the Dutch Spiegelbeeld program, a database with female role models who work in technology and they told me that often their parents actively discourage them to choose technical. Not to actively discourage, but they just say things like: Are you sure you would like that? or Are you sure this is for you? and that makes girls question their choice. At the age where kids have to choose what courses they will take (in the Netherlands, this is at age 15) girls are especially vulnerable for critique and want to fit in, where boys still have more of an I don’t care attitude.
I am not the only one with this experience:
“At parent-teacher conferences, mom says ‘I recognize my daughters problems, since I used to fail math too’ This way, girls are being convinced they won’t make it”  (translated from Dutch)
One of the most heart breaking examples of this that I have personally experienced was when a judge at a programming contest for kids asked a participating girl whether the programming wasn’t difficult for her ‘being a girl’. I am sure this judge did not mean any disrespect, he was just trying to be nice, but the girl looked totally puzzled and said in an angry voice “what do you mean, is programming not for girls?” I was feeling super proud at her for answering so strongly, but you could see the seed of doubt was planted, is this the thing for me?
Now as a thought experiment, replace ‘girl’ in your head with another minority and feel how extremely out of line that is. Had this judge said ‘wasn’t it hard for you to program, being in a wheelchair/Asian/gay?’ my guess is there would have been some serious consequences. You see how socially okay it is to say these things about girls?
Parents/teachers: don’t teach kids gender based stereotypes and girls will start to pursue sciences. 2040 thanks you.
A discussion of this proposition with my colleague Georgios made me think of this comic. Al always, Randall Munroe gets it right and a lot more concise than me.
 http://magazine.vhto.nl/december2012/rolmodel/ (Dutch)
I am aware I skipped proposition 6.