Sometimes something inspires you, hits you or just speaks to you. Today I saw this fragment on a Dutch tv show and it hit a nerve.
I’m not in science but I am in IT and I still get asked sometimes “why?”. I’ve never really paused at that question, I knew when I started that I was an exception in a sea of men (my then company employed 160 male and only 4 female IT consultants) but I never felt inhibited or held back in any way to become or do what I wanted. The ‘why?’ that I’ve been asked hundreds of times never really bothered me.
Until last week. And weirdly enough it wasn’t even about my work in IT when it did.
Apart from working in IT I also like LEGO. As a kid we had LEGO but I was always told it was my brothers’, so I could only play with it if we played with it together. problem was, we didn’t really play well together so I never got to play much with it and as opportunity dwindled I eventually forgot about it. After all, It was a boy thing.
30 years on and hearing from more then a few people (mostly men) in my circle who still loved building with LEGO I finally got over my own inhibitions and bought my own LEGO set. I loved it!
Showing a picture of my latest set (model of the Mini Cooper) to a coworker who also likes building with LEGO (yes, it’s an IT thing, nerds seem to love LEGO) he quizzically looked at me and stated “you really do love it don’t you?”, and then it hit me.
Even though we are the same age, spend roughly the same amount of money on LEGO and have been talking about LEGO for a while now, the fact that I’m a girl somehow still makes it an oddity for me to enjoy it. And although I’m certain he didn’t consciously mean anything with it I suddenly felt 10 again and being told: “Why do you want to play with LEGO? Isn’t that more something for boys?”. It made me aware of how much some cultural concepts creep into perception and into our culture and how even a simple question can make you question yourself when it is asked often enough.
This speech is not about LEGO, it’s not even about IT but it is about the power of cultural concepts and how those influence us in who we become.
The next time you ask someone “why?”, perhaps ask yourself “Why not?” first.
note: The reference that started the response in the video above is in relation to a controversial statement made by former Harvard president L. Summers in which he suggests genetics play a role in why women are under represented in science.