A reporter from a local newspaper visited the Texas state robotics championship last Saturday and happened upon a group of middle school girls who were checking the equipment just before putting the robot through its paces in their round. The newswoman began talking with them and learned that one of them had been part of the primary design and engineering team, another had helped to author the Process Engineering Notebook and others had performed various tasks in marketing and driving all of which led to a second place finish in an earlier regional competition. She was fascinated to see so many females working with such precision and confidence and decided to feature them in an article. These young ladies are among the many who are blazing new trails in a world that places fewer and fewer limits on individuals because of their sex.
Women are forging ahead with abandon these days. America’s universities now enroll more females than males on a regular basis. Women are assuming leadership positions in virtually every walk of life. While there is some disappointment that we do not yet have a woman President of the United States, I am confident that it will happen before long. Glass ceilings are shattering everywhere.
There was a time when young girls were treated as though they were somehow unworthy of higher education or even an opportunity to learn the basics. Neither of my grandmothers had enough schooling to even know how to read. In just a few decades the trend of keeping the girls at home to take care of the cleaning, the cooking and the children no longer happens in the families of their descendants. One of the young ladies that I mentioned above is their great great granddaughter. She can’t even comprehend being held back like they were. I suspect that my grandmothers would be quite proud of her accomplishments and her confidence. She has no doubt that she will be able to achieve whatever she wishes. Her only problem at this point is in deciding which of many different talents she will ultimately use.
I was among the first generation of women who began working outside of the home en masse. I chose a traditional career as a mathematics teacher chiefly because I enjoy working with people. I had little desire to be an engineer or work with numbers in a more solitary environment. Teaching tapped into my social and creative talents and made me happy which is what I believe should be the case for everyone in determining a career. I was free to choose my own destiny and it felt freeing and natural.
My sister-in-law became a highly respected engineer and was in the highest levels of management by the time that she finally retired. She worked for a NASA contractor and played a big part in working with Russia and the International Space Station. She says that she rarely encountered any forms of sexism. She was highly respected for the excellence of her work. All that her coworkers and bosses wanted from her was competence and she had an abundance of that. Like me she enjoyed her work and only reluctantly left for a quieter life spending time with her grandchildren and traveling around the world.
Me and my peers literally blazed trails in one occupation after another until it became commonplace for mayors, police officers, CEOs and scientists to be women. We smashed the traditions of long ago when females often had to work in the background in certain fields. History is replete with stories and questions about how much women may have contributed to the genius of men like Galileo, Shakespeare and Einstein but we will never know the full truth because they had to work in the shadows. It was rare for the female half of society to venture outside of the home in most cases and almost unheard of for them to be consulted for their points of view.
We hear of trendsetters like Abigail Adams who was well read and had definite opinions about how things should have been. She did her best to get husband John to remember the women when drawing up the Constitution. Much to her dismay all thought of giving women the vote was dismissed and it took far too long for our ancestors to finally be given a right that should have been theirs from the beginning. With determination and courage brave souls worked until it finally happened about the time that my grandmothers were coming of age.
The days of pushing women aside are long gone. Within my family the female descendants of those grandmothers are doing extraordinarily well. There are accountants, Ph.D.s, a medical doctor, nurses, teachers, school administrators, artists, communications specialists, managers, social workers, championship golfers, and a group of up and coming little girls who promise to set the world on fire. There seem to be no limits to what we are willing to try, including climbing mountains, writing books and making movies. We simply don’t hesitate to make our dreams reality.
I attend the graduations of any former students who invite me to their commencements. If I were making tick marks to keep track of how many women and how many men are earning college degrees, the ladies would be far ahead. They are working hard and making names for themselves in law, scientific research, medicine, education, business, public health, psychology and a host of incredible careers. They have no fear when it comes to educating themselves and moving forward at a rapid pace. They leave me breathless with their accomplishments.
I presently wear a nail polish called “We the Women.” I find it fitting to do so since I have spent my life encouraging both young men and women to follow their dreams and never look back. I like to believe that I have played a small role in encouraging the young women that I have known to be courageous in deciding their own fates. There is no stopping them any longer. They are ready to accept all of the challenges of a future that looks quite bright for them. It’s going to be fun to sit back and watch them roar.