Surfer Girl Teaches a Valuable Lesson
How you can help STEM girls with female job opportunities.
You know early on that a career in science, technology, engineering or math is going to be a challenge. But if you’re like me and want to make your mark, and you don’t mind a little bit of challenge, then it’s a great career to get into. STEM careers are challenging, rewarding, and often pay well.
It’s always good to find some motivation though. I will often get excited if I find new ideas in an unlikely place to help motivate girls towards female job opportunities in STEM careers.
I recently watched the movie Isolated on Netflix. Don’t worry, I won’t give away any surprises. The basic premise of the movie is that a group of five feral surfers travel the world to find the perfect wave. They end up on the other side of the planet in New Guinea and that’s where the action takes place.
The movie is a documentary and goes to considerable lengths to show how war-torn the area is and the hardships the people face. So how does a movie about surfing relate to you as a female in a STEM career? I’m glad you asked.
There is a very short section of the movie during which Jenny Useldinger, the only female surfer in the group, is faced with gender bias in a remote location of the world that’s only barely civilized.
The group of surfers decide to teach the local children how to surf while they are staying at a remote village. They all gather their surf boards and the local boys quickly get into the water with the men of the group.
Jenny tries to get the boys to get on her board, but every time they would stay away from her. There is one really funny scene where she walks toward a group of boys and they ran quickly away like little girls. Jenny discovers that there are strictly defined gender roles within this society, so she tries a different approach.
We can all learn a lesson from what she did next. She went directly to the girls of the village. She gave the girls one on one lessons on a separate part of the beach and taught the girls how to surf.
I know what you’re thinking, separate but equal is not ideal, but hang (ten) with me.
We see the girls in the water with the boys all surfing together later on. So by the end of the film the boys and the girls are looked at as one group. What started as separate groups of boys and girls, eventually came to be seen as equal in this one activity. Now that each of these girls has been empowered in surfing, they could conceivably seek equality in other aspects of their lives. Now that’s what I call planting a seed!
The overall theme of the movie is about surfing and military oppression, but what they filmed by accident was one woman making a difference in the life of these girls in a remote village. Thank you Jenny!
What can we learn from this? We need to teach and connect with the next generation of females, so how can we do this?
Volunteer at your local schools. Show girls during career day that they can be scientists, programmers, engineers, and mathematicians. Be a coach for the middle school robotics club. The only caveat is they must have at least one girl on the team.
This is also a good lesson for the boys on the team. If they encounter a female such as yourself in a technology field, then they may be less inclined to carry forward today’s ideas about gender roles when it comes to career.
Tutor a girl at your local school. The key is to get girls interested in STEM careers and female job opportunities.
Go to the website at your local university and find a society, group, or team that you feel passionate about and offer to help out in any way you can. You can also offer to volunteer at the college’s career counseling center, which is a great way to connect. Once you are plugged in, offer to mentor a group of females. Give them support, advice, and guidance and the experience will teach all of you some great lessons.
I hope Jenny’s story inspires you to make a difference as much as it inspired me. There weren’t many female engineers that I could turn to when I started out, which is why I feel so passionately about helping the next generation. I believe this is the best way for us to inspire the next generation of STEM girls towards female job opportunities.
So what do you think? Let us know in the comments below if this story has inspired you. We also encourage you to sign up for free newsletter and join the conversation.