A now-fired Google employee's offensive - and inaccurate - manifesto stating that women are biologically unsuitable to be engineers could be a blow to young girls who've pinned their hopes and dreams on a STEM career.
But it mustn't.
Instead, it should serve as a rallying cry for women and girls everywhere who want to explore STEM fields and take them to a higher level.
But what about those young girls who haven't yet given STEM a thought? How do we pique their interest, nurture their talents and show them that STEM isn't just for boys?
GraphLock founder and CEO Mallory Dyer has a few ideas. A STEMinista in her own right, she started with logic puzzles and problem solving in grade school, became a college mathematics professor, and went on to develop a scientific and graphing calculator app with a lockdown mode designed to help everyone - girls, women, at-risk students and those from low-income families - succeed in STEM.
The gender divide begins at an early age, Mallory says. Young girls somehow develop a misperception that math and science aren't conducive to their way of thinking, or learning. The truth is, STEM knows no gender bounds. It's up to teachers and parents to encourage young girls to explore STEM with confidence.
"I had amazing teachers in elementary school who saw my potential in math so they would always give me more-challenging math problems to do," Mallory says. "And my parents also were always supportive, never attaching any negative connotation around math."
Show the value of STEM
Witnessing the application of math in the real world was an eye-opener for Mallory. In first grade, she was encouraged to push her math skills beyond her comfort zone and tackle second-grade problems. Instead of fear, Mallory felt excitement. She took over as manager of her school bookstore, where she could use the math skills she'd learned in real life.
And her love of sports and her family's livestock auction business gave Mallory even more freedom to test her skills.
"When showing cattle, I always had to calculate how much feed to give them to get them to a certain weight by a certain time," she says. "And on the basketball court, I was always able to see the court as angles - I saw the court in a mathematical way."
Seek out support systems
When Mallory was a student at Arizona State University, she found few fellow women in her upper-level math classes. In study groups, Mallory was often the only woman in her group. But times have changed. Now, many schools and communities have girls tech clubs, coding clubs and the like. If your daughter or student shows an affinity for STEM, encourage her to join like- minded peers.
"Math is just a phobia for so many people. A lot of times people around young girls are saying, 'I hate math' or 'I'm not good at it' and that's what these girls are hearing. These groups are going to be wonderful support systems to young girls."
Tips for turning your girl into a STEMinista
1. Encourage and support math early.
2. Don't talk negatively about STEM in front of children.
3. Treat math as a puzzle - a problem that needs to be solved. This helps to create a different perception.
4. When your child gets stuck, encourage her to push herself and embrace the challenge.
5. Create opportunities (such as opening a lemonade stand) for your child to apply the math she's learned.
6. Encourage her to join a STEM group for girls.
7. Introduce her to role models - women leading the way in STEM - so she can see women do succeed in science, technology, engineering and math and there are countless opportunities to follow suit.