Lego is for boys, Math is for girlsDecember 15, 2015

You were about to attend the university, excited about the thought of going through the reading list again and again. Nothing would give you more satisfaction than the words of a dead author. Your best friend, whom you've known since six, didn't share your enthusiasm. You don't mind, as she preferred to think out of the box. In fact, she was considering mathematics.

You don't like sexism, but you wondered if mathematics was an exception to the rule. After all, all the girls you've known don't show an inclination in figures. Except the number on the weighing scale. You shared your sentiment with your mother, who gave you a look. You didn't like it, as you sensed her disapproval. It turned out that Mum once studied Math in Hull.

Numbers don't lie, but there's something else

Your mother beamed with pride when she recalled her days at the university. She was one of the few female students studying mathematics. She saw herself as an outsider, not even thinking about sexism being a possible reason for the low number of teenage girls in the department. Peter, her older brother, was obsessed about Lego. In fact, he always received the latest (Lego) creations on his birthday. Your mother could have tried playing with Lego blocks, but she thought it was created for boys. (She was dead wrong, but you don't want her to stop talking about her old life.) She had her life planned out, until she met your father during a weekend holiday in Rotterdam.

Your dad hailed from Melbourne. You knew the rest of the story, but you've been thinking about math. You came to the following conclusions:

Sexism and numbers are two different items. Mum admitted that a career in mathematics could be lonely at times. She considered other (career) options. She believed women were more sociable than men. In fact, she would keep in touch with her coursemates. Not that she wasn't cut out for a career related to math, but she didn't want to miss out on other things.

A career orientation can help anyone. Your mother remembered that there wasn't much information on the possible jobs for B.S. Math majors. It was rather based from assumption and opinion of others. (And some views would favour the menfolk.) Mum didn't want to go with the flow. It was one of the qualities that your father liked about her.

There was no glass ceiling to begin with. It turned out that some countries have a high number of female students interested in math. And they applied for different jobs. Teaching mathematics was the first option. There were others, which could be more exciting. Not that an academic life was a dull existence, though.

You thought it wasn't different from literature, when the likes of George Sands must dress like a gentleman in able to attract publishers. And then you thought about your best friend. You were thinking what was it like for both of you to shop for hours.

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