Big changes: Womens’ status is moving on up

It seems that in the last couple of weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time covering events geared toward garnering the interest of young women in those all-important fields of science, technology engineering and math.

Educational philosophy aside – I was an English major, which I’m guessing won’t even exist in 20 years – I’m finding my spirits are being buoyed for the next generation of women.

Most of the time I am disheartened at the many obstacles women have yet to overcome, obstacles that seem silly given the social strides this country has taken in the last 50 years.

I’m not that thrilled at the fact that in 2014, having 20 women in the U.S Senate is a record. That’s better than having 19, I guess. It’s not as good as having 50.

But in a lot of ways, things are moving forward.

Hillary Clinton may be getting plenty of sexist flack for her soon-to-be grandmother status (I don’t recall anyone in the last election caring one iota about Mitt Romney actually being a grandfather many, many times over), but she is also the first real female contender for president this country has ever seen.

Whether or not she should be president is a different debate.

What matters is that she has a real shot. I don’t care what political party she belongs to, she is the first woman in my lifetime who has any kind of chance to lead this country.

Young girls living in cities big and small can see her and know there is a space for them in government, that they can have a voice in making the decisions that will shape this country’s future.

They can also see women in high level positions across a wide spectrum of careers – CEOs, scientists, doctors, lawyers, engineers, soldiers.

Certainly there needs to be more visible women in these fields, but even when I was a young kid some 20 years ago, those occupations were decidedly male.

So as these elementary-and-middle-school-age girls get the chance to meet women working in these and other professions, my hopes for my own would-be daughter are stronger.

Everyone knows the best place to start a change is with young people. They are the ones who can change the world because they are the ones capable of seeing how it could be, not just how it is.

Events like the ones I attended in the last couple of weeks are striking glimpses into the future for these girls. They are a chance for them to see themselves in forensic science or civil engineering, in a corner office or an oval office.

They are also a chance for these girls to know that they have choices.

They can choose to enter the working world, or to stay at home with the kids. And they can also know that one choice does not necessarily exclude the other.

That’s the whole point anyway – the ability to choose.

Whether those girls grow up to become pilots or stay-at-home moms, they can know they made a choice for themselves and not because that choice was made for them the moment they were born.

Some day, if my future daughter ever says she wants to grow up and build bridges, become a leading researcher in the quest for a cure for cancer or become president of the United States, I want her to know that those are attainable dreams, not just something cute she said when she was 7.

I’m hopeful that one day, she could do all of those things.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jackie Stark is a Chocolay Township resident and a staff reporter at The Mining Journal. Her column appears bi-weekly. She can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is jstark@miningjournal.net.