I was not able to see opening ceremonies today because of work; did the representative from this company give a speech? What was its content?
Given FIRST’s recent focus on improving representation of minorities and women in FIRST and STEM, generally, the inclusion of this sort of messaging seems completely tone deaf and at odds with the work we’ve been doing elsewhere.
I am really unhappy to see this. This is a big miss on FIRST’s part.
I saw this booth yesterday in the pits and was instantly confused. I guess I just don’t really understand why they were at the event. In a place where it is heavily emphasized that both males and females are capable of doing the same work on teams, whether its on the organizational side or the technical side, it was strange to see something that is so gender-targeted and has seemingly nothing to do with FIRST’s mission.
Lynn Tilton was the speaker. Her speech didn’t seem that out of the ordinary, just your typical “you students are building the future” stuff, and honestly wasn’t that memorable. The speaker owned over 100 companies, with a whole bunch being in tech, defense, etc. fields, right inline with your run of the mill major FIRST sponsor. Curious why her FIRST connection seems to be done through this rather than any of her other endeavors.
Dean has been speaking a lot about how FIRST has to move beyond traditional sources of support in order to reach a wider audience. This certainty seems inline with this idea on paper, though execution seems to miss the mark on tone to some degree.
From my understanding of her Dean’s List speech, it was that she felt strongly about getting more girls involved with FIRST, and she felt getting two of her cosmetics businesses involved could help that. (From the sounds of it, Dean had approached her, and she got to make the choice of which of her companies she would use as a front for her holding companies involvement).
What this is really about is part of the whole we need to get more people, both individuals and businesses, involved that aren’t Science and Technology companies. While I’m not exactly crazy with the promo video FIRST released, I overall applaud this. We need to show the world that everyone has a place in FIRST, even if you don’t directly plan on going into work with Science and Technology. It’s not about getting kids into STEM Jobs, its about getting the world to appreciate and respect the importance of STEM. The fact that we have a company completely out of STEM recognizing this is HUGE, and I hope more companies not directly in STEM follow.
Unfortunately – and I’ll try to find the things I’ve read that back this up – emphasizing traditional gender expectations (like makeup, femininity, being pretty, etc.) as part of efforts to boost interest in STEM among girls often has a negative impact. Girls already feel a tremendous amount of pressure to conform to traditional standards of beauty, largely due to marketing efforts of companies like Jane Cosmetics, and asking them to cope with those pressures while dealing with the pressures incumbent in pursuing STEM as a girl serves to drive them away.
While there’s nothing wrong with makeup or femininity inherently, it’s when they become an expectation rather than an option that we get into trouble. Since those things are still very much part of the expectations our society places upon girls today, their presence at a FIRST event is misguided. FIRST should be presenting itself as an alternative; a place where girls can become competent, contributing members of society and nobody is going to care what they look like or act like while doing it. If, later, they want to put on the trappings of femininity, they should be able to do so all the while knowing that none of it will have any bearing on their value in making the world a better place.
Broadening support for FIRST is laudable, but doing so at the expense of its core goals is a bad trade.
Perhaps this could be viewed as a way to inspire girls who are using their products (the ones who are currently “conforming” to the traditional “norms”) to take a look at something like FIRST and realize there is a place for them in the organization as well. I coach a team with 10 girls (out of 21 team members this year). Some of them are big into wearing make up and some are not, but they are ALL big into working on the robot and being a part of the team.
I am willing to guess that this idea may have been a factor in the speaker choosing to involve the companies she did.
I wouldn’t say that this was at the expense of the core goals of FIRST. Maybe because (like you said) there is a push in FIRST at improving representation of minorities and women, this is an attempt to show that STEM roles are friendly to girls who are into things like makeup, since it may seem to those girls that they are pushed away for being too “feminine”.
tl;dr FIRST is trying to bring people in, not drive people out.
As a girl who regularly enjoys doing and wearing both makeup and nail polish, I applaud this move. In our attempt to include more girls, we’ve always stressed that they can do everything boys can do. That they’re not any different from the boys. We should be encouraging girls that there’s a place for them in FIRST, regardless of whether or not they feel more comfortable in heels, a dress, and makeup, or jeans, sneakers, and a hoodie. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying looking/acting like a “stereotypical girl” just like there’s nothing wrong with not meeting those same stereotypes.
For me, make up isn’t about trying to reach an arbitrary standard of beauty. I use it to express myself and my interests. My eyes and nails usually match my team colors. This weekend was spent in scholarship row so every day, my eyes have sported FIRST’s colors. Life’s short and make up comes in all kinds of colors. Why shouldn’t I have fun with it? I enjoy wearing heels just as much, but I realize it’s simply not practical to wear them all day to a competition.
Neither fact should have any bearing on my abilities or my roles on my team.
And as an aside, I’d rather do things like stripes or numbers on my face (or the face of others) in makeup because I know the products were intended to be used on the face. I’ve used inferior products that my students have reacted poorly too. I know what I’m getting into with makeup and I know the best ways to apply and remove it.
I like this explanation, being the more charitable and less cynical one. The promo video and the whole thing do seem to be quite at odds with what we’re used to seeing in FIRST, but it may be a good angle to show “girly” girls that they can be part FIRST and STEM too.
This is very different from dissuading girls from participating because of how they express themselves or how they behave. Offering makeovers is, instead, a way of preying upon girls’ insecurities and suggesting that, despite whatever success they may have had on their team and at the event, they will be better off still if they conform to some societal ideal of beauty. There is a marked difference between targeting girls that already have an interest in makeup and targeting girls with makeup and this seems very much like that latter.
Edited to add: I don’t necessarily care that a cosmetics company is sponsoring FIRST, really, but do take issue with offering makeovers during the event. A better, more meaningful approach might be to promote FIRST at cosmetics-related events rather than the other way around. All of that being said, having read a bit more about Ms. Tilton today, I am not really comfortable with her being anywhere near FIRST at all. I would not offer her as a role model for the students on our team.
I got the chance to talk to Lynn Tilton today, and what’s been mentioned here is *exactly *her point.
Bring new people in, not drive existing out. Not only is Jane cosmetics a line with the ‘buy one, give one’ mentality, but if girls who are typically into ‘girlier’ things like makeup see FIRST* through Jane,* that could be a pretty good thing.
I don’t think anyone is saying FIRST girls have to look or be a certain way, but rather, let’s find a new avenue to bring more girls into FIRST and get the FIRST community into it too. Personally, I’d love to go over there and try out the products - because if they’re good, and Jane supports FIRST, I’ll definitely buy.
Why is that any different from offering study classes for the AP test? Or a coach helping a student excel at a sport? If someone wants to get help/suggestions from someone who knows a lot more, then why not?
and suggesting that, despite whatever success they may have had on their team and at the event, they will be better off still if they conform to some societal ideal of beauty.
I would posit that the ladies who have already joined First are already somewhat immune from social pressures.
The question is: How do you approach the next level of ladies: Those who are interested in First/Stem, but are sensitive to social pressure?
Those ladies already feel the social pressure to conform to “societal ideal of beauty”, so nothing is lost if you can show that that part of their life does not change, but they can also be part of First/Stem. In fact, she may be able to use her First/Stem training to improve products that help her to conform to societal ideal of beauty.
If a lady wants to be feminine, then there is no reason to not let her be what she wants to be. Trying to appear “neutral” is just as much damaging to the lady that is dissuaded from being what she wants to be.
Well, learning is one thing; learning is fixing ignorance. Offering a makeover is sort of implying that there’s something inherently wrong with the way your face is. But I may be biased, as I’m not a fan of makeup in general.
Lynn is a very successful business person and has excelled in a part of the world dominated by men. She is very good at what she does and she is very clear and direct in her dealings.
I heard her message, and my interpretation was if you feel comfortable and confident, you can achieve more.
She didn’t say you have to wear make-up or a certain type of clothes, she didn’t say wear cosmetics so that people will like you, she didn’t say dress or look a certain way. She simply said feel confident - whatever that means to you and however you achieve that.
I posted the following in a friend’s discussion in Facebook and decided to add it to this thread as well.
" Just a comment here:
Women and girls in shelters and safe houses from abuse - are very appreciative of clothing, make up, hair styling, and feminine hygiene products. How do I know this? 418 worked with a woman who founded a charity to help the homeless and, in particular, young teenage girls, for several years.
I’ve worked with, and supported, Safe Place here in Austin.
Furthermore, we all know about girls on teams and the wide spectrum of self-esteem and acceptance.
If the booth is popular, it could have a positive impact. The wise team will interview the girls and the people in the company and get some feedback before bringing judgment. Just sayin’."
In the last paragraph, I talk about a ‘wise team’ interviewing the girls and the folks who are working the booth during this event. It’s actually a pretty awesome concept and would open up the impact viewpoint like crazy, providing insight many of us have never thought about. Anytime anyone feels better about themselves, it is a good thing.
I’ve often wondered how to help boost the self-esteem of girls on teams and if we can do more to help them see a future in the STEM programs - envisioning their place.
Let’s not be so quick to judge and, instead, wait for some feedback from the opportunity. Also, this opportunity runs both ways: the company is sure to be impacted by the amazing girls in FIRST. It is bound to be an eye-opening experience for the company, just as it has been for other folks outside of the STEM bubble. Let’s pop it and see what happens.