By Holly Richardson

holly richardson author pic

I woke my 8 yr-old daughter up on Wednesday this week by telling her “Happy International Women’s Day!” She is an amazing human and she’s also teaching me new things every day. 

The UN theme in 2023 is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality,” an important issue when more than one-third of all women in the world are not connected to the internet. Our 8-yr-old is a digital native. She’s been able to navigate on my phone since she was one. She’s learning basic computer programming in school. Surely, she will be comfortable in a tech-heavy world, right?

Maybe not. I called and talked to a friend of mine who works in tech about her take on the low numbers of women in STEM careers (only 21% of STEM jobs in Utah, where I live, are held my women, for example). She told me that “something happens” about third grade, when girls start believing they can’t do math.

…“something happens” about third grade, when girls start believing they can’t do math.

Fascinating. We’ve been struggling with that exact issue this year with my third-grader. My friend told me about her nieces in high school who say “I can’t do math” and yet are earning straight A’s. That is so weird, because our third-grader (when she actually DOES the math), gets great scores. But – her math papers are filled with frowny faces (drawn by her) and “I don’t know” on lines where it asks for a narrative answer. Sometimes when we work with her at home, she bursts into tears and has a total meltdown, saying “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t!” (She doesn’t hear that from us, by the way.)

We’ve done everything from talk about how we all do things that are hard for us, to doing anxiety-reducing breathing exercises, to yoga, to a reward-system for completion, and more. Yet for some reason, she has internalized that she cannot do math (she really can.) 

I have told myself that I can’t do math either, but of course I use math everyday, from doubling recipes, to keeping track of the bank account, to calculating how much time I can allot for certain activities. I also passed a PhD level stats class. Still not sure how that happened, haha.

Here’s what I do know, during this Women’s History Month and on International Women’s Day. Every little girl (and every little boy) has infinite potential. We ALL can learn to use the internet as a tool (and not a weapon). We ALL can do more to create safety for the emotional health of our girls as they navigate adolescence in a social media world. 

And we can ALL do math (yes, really). 

I know it’s been said before, but I’ll say it again.

Here’s to strong women: May we know them, may we be them and may we raise them. 


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