“What a terrific airplane shirt! Do you want to fly a plane and be a pilot?”
My four-year-old was running around the terminal, arms outstretched, making zooming noises and watching the planes land and take off when a passerby spoke up. I had heard this conversation dozens of times before - after four children and many trips to Grandma’s, the discussions adults have with kids while waiting to catch a plane are fairly predictable.
But this conversation was different.
“Yes! I’ll wear a hat and fly my plane everywhere!”
“Where would you like to go?”
“To Grandma’s! And Mom and Dad and all the brothers will ride along in my plane!”
The words were pretty much the same as always, but this adult was speaking to a girl - my daughter - not of one of my three sons.
My boys have always worn clothes that reflected their interests. Dinosaur hoodies, monster truck shirts, pants embroidered with tiny trains. People talk with them about stomping like a dinosaur, how fun it would be to drive a monster truck, and the sounds engines make (I always love hearing grown ups sing out “Choo-ooo! Choo choo!”). The boys would stomp and vroom and “tooooooot!” right along, glorying in the encouragement of their favorite topic du jour.
My daughter is a feminine little person - she likes pink, bows, sparkles, fancy shoes, twirly skirts, nail polish. But many of her pretty clothes are limited in expressing the other things she likes - in fact, all the same things her brothers like. When she’s wearing a twirly dress with butterflies on it, adults tell her, “You look so pretty today!” And that’s fine - it’s fun to dress up and experiment with different looks. But does it have to be the only conversation she ever hears? What if she could wear the styles of clothing she liked that also featured topics she enjoyed?
When my friend Rebecca asked me that same question years ago, the two of us answered it by creating Princess Awesome. The clothes we make reflect the wide range of girls’ interests. And what we suspected about adults talking about girls’ interests based on the clothes they’re wearing was true. When a girl wears a shirt with the scientific method on it, adults ask her about her interest in science. They talk about dinosaurs when she’s wearing a dinosaur dress. One little girl even explained to her dad how multiplication works based on the number patterns in her math flowers dress.
All these little conversations add up. It’s subtle but it reinforces to children what adults really value. If girls hear nothing but comments on their appearance, eventually they will internalize that what adults really value in girls is how they look - no matter how often they also hear “You can be anything you want to be.”
I have yet to meet a kid who doesn’t like airplanes. Yet women comprise fewer than 10% of pilots, aviation mechanics, and flight engineers. Why is it that so many girls lose their interest in aviation? At Princess Awesome, we’re dedicated to making sure girls know that aviation and other STEM fields are just as much for them as they are for boys.
We’re honored to join forces with JetBlue Foundation that shares our commitment to fostering girl’s interest and confidence in STEM fields. The JetBlue Foundation provides financial support to students, especially girls, in pursuing a STEM education to work in aviation. This month, we are releasing a special blue edition of our Airplanes Collection in honor of the JetBlue Foundation.
Little girls already have all the confidence they need to fly, repair, and direct airplanes. What they need from us is our unwavering confidence in them and their abilities. I can still hear her, right before we stepped on the plane -
“Mama, when I’m big I will fly my plane all around the world!”
Yes, my sweet. You will fly with your own wings. We’ll just be the air beneath you.