While we prepare girls to challenge institutional barriers and gender norms, we less frequently and effectively prepare them for the little stuff. Like the fact that the temperature setting in most workplaces is calibrated to men’s metabolic rates, so women are often uncomfortably cold, especially when the air-conditioning kicks in. Or that until recently, even the White House did not have enough lactation rooms for the moms who wanted to work there. These are unfortunate realities that shouldn’t be ignored. Not simply because if we don’t shine a spotlight on the issues, things will never change, but also because our girls need to understand and be prepared for the world that awaits them.
If we only teach certain stories from history — and if we leave out so many female pioneers – school-aged girls will only see themselves pursuing certain paths. They won’t have the examples needed to imagine other outcomes, for themselves or their female friends. It’s part of the reason why women represent 51 percent of the world population, but a mere one out of seven of our engineers. It’s why we continue to see female policymakers and advocates overshadowed by male counterparts. And why we risk limiting the insights and innovations today’s schoolgirls can bring to science, journalism, the military, and more.