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The Importance of Teaching Boys About Brilliant Women

By normalising brilliant women to our daughters and our sons, we make room for those women. If we don’t, it becomes a real problem for successful women when those boys become men

By Dr Dana McKay, University of Melbourne

On International Women’s Day, like many people, I will read books about female heroes like Ada Lovelace to my daughter. But I will also read about them to my son.

The Little People, Big Dreams books began life focusing on inspiring women including Marie Curie, Frida Kahlo and Coco Chanel, to name a few.

They have since expanded to include men – Muhammad Ali, Stephen Hawking and Martin Luther King.

The reason these books initially focused solely on women was because the author wanted inspiring books for her nieces. She expanded that focus because “uniqueness includes boys too”.

While all children need role models they can see themselves in, the assumption that boys don’t want or need to hear about successful women is a real problem for successful women when those boys become men.

Statistics tell us that fields like philosophy, physics and technology where ‘brilliance’ or ‘genius’ are considered key characteristics of successful people are still hostile to women.

The gap in ‘genius’ isn’t one of performance, but of perception. But, what about gender balance in technology?

We have seen an enormous shift from programming being considered ‘women’s work’ in the early days of computing, to it now being a near-exclusive and increasingly male pursuit. If it were only men that used or were affected by technology, this wouldn’t be a problem.

This isn't the case.

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