danica_mckellar_580pxDear Reader,

I wish Danica McKellar’sMath Doesn’t Suck” had been around when I was young.  I wound up in a remedial math class in the sixth grade because I believed that I was not good at math.  When the other kids said to me, “Congratulations. You’re a dummy like the rest of us. We are all dummies here. Welcome to the dummies class.” I fought. I refused to be labelled a dummy. I wound up back in the advanced math class.

My mother wasn’t much help. When I returned to college as an engineering major she said, “You don’t have the brains for that. Your father can do that. You can’t.” I was reduced to tears. My father got angry and told me not to listen to her. I realized I was really good at math and truly enjoyed it in college. I was scoring ahead of class average through Calculus 2 and I remember how beautiful an integration across two chalkboards was. The jumble of numbers and letters almost danced.

As supportive as my father was he was still surprised. When I found vector analysis intriguing, he said, “You are not doing vector analysis. I do that.” When I insisted I was learning it he asked me to explain it to him. His response was, “I always thought my sons would be doing that, not my daughter. Awesome.” I’ve been lucky to have a lot of good role models. My first cousin, Donna Livant, is an accomplished cancer researcher doing ground-breaking work at her Oncology lab at the University of Michigan. And she is married with a family.

I wonder how many stereotypes arise from a misunderstanding of the different interaction and learning styles between the genders. In addition to a perceived lack of ability women are not viewed as capable of teamwork. My current department is one of the best-kept secrets in the technology field. More than 50% of the management are women as well as the workforce. In the technical field teamwork is not just good for productivity — its a survival skill.

I take a nearly perverse delight in breaking stereotypes.  Trailblazing is not always comfortable, but I find the rewards far outweigh the challenges. I am not living in anyone else’s shadow. Currently, I have the privilege of being asked to be in a series of videos published by Bridge Technical Talent to mentor and foster children’s interests in the technical field. Will this kill the pesky stereotypes? I hope so.

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