As one of our 2 female EDS Fellows - thanks to all who noticed Ada's day! It has been an exhausting day in Boston for me - speaking on a cloud computing panel. Interestingly, 3 of the 5 panelists were women. Not necessarily by design, but that's just how it worked out.
The importance of having a female role model is an interesting theory, but I'm not sure that I personally noticed that as an influence - especially growing up in poor, rural Oklahoma. However, hearing my mother's constant reminder that my intelligence was my most valuable asset, that I could pursue whatever career I desired, and her passion for the Equal Rights Amendment in the '70s set the tone that I could expect equal footing in the world. And I believed her.
Additionally, my father's insistence that I learn to rebuild engines and fix whatever was broken taught me a sense of self-reliance and problem-solving. Is there a parallel between fine-tuning air:fuel mix ratios and optimizing code performance :-) ?
And I noticed - it was Ada's mother who taught and encouraged her mathematical aptitude.
As for women dropping out of STEM fields, it would be interesting to know if they really dropped out, or never started. I have many friends who started in technology jobs but then stepped away from their career to pursue an opportunity in full-time parenting. I did that myself when my son was a baby (but the excitement of silicon valley was too great and my retirement only lasted 6 months!).
Also, I see many women in technology moving toward business management roles, and wonder if someone like an Ann Livermore would be classified as a STEM participant? STEM or not, she certainly stands out as a role model for both men and women!
I am thankful to those men and women who are great leaders and who take the time for mentorship and sharing their experiences. I encourage readers to do the same as professionals. But as a parent, you will always be the most influential force in your little human's life. Your constant reminder of self-worth and aptitude will make all the difference in the world.