Maybe it’s because my daughter squealed with delight when she saw the cover to the latest catalog that showed up at our house, but I’m not totally aghast with the fact that Mindware is selling a “science is fun!” spa kit. Yes, I still get upset when I see microscopes painted pink to attract girls, I don’t think women in science & engineering need to be sexy to attract the next generation of scientists & engineers and I’m still torn about computer science Barbie.

But my daughter’s seven now and is, well, quite the girly girl.

Yes, she still kicks butt on the soccer field and earns straight As, but she’s also very much in touch with her girly side. She loves to get her nails done (which I limit due to the toxicity of nail polish). She also is finally old enough and I think agile enough to really do her own hair.

She does girly in her own way. Too much pink for me at times, so it wasn’t too much of a shocker when she told me that she was putting the spa kit on her wish list.

To be exact, I handed her the catalog and asked if she wanted anything from it for Solstice or Christmas. She also really wants the Tasty Science kit, a spider robot to scare her dad with, thought about the butterflies, but figured our dogs would eat them, definitely the mega-connect-the-dots books and a whole bunch of other straight-up-non-gendered science toys. Thus my daughter is not being attracted to science by a face mask, rather she sees two of her interests colliding.

And when I’m working in the community or even talking to students on campus who aren’t sure where their place is in science or engineering, I ask them what their passion is. Not what they want to do when they grow up, but their passions. Music? Art? Dance? Hiking? Social networking? I can find the science, engineering, technology or math in that and then I tear into my “get as much math as possible, calculus if you can, done in high school” speech.*

Most of the commenters at The Frisky thought that Jessica was making too much of this. I see their point. But with the glut of “paint it pink and girls will love it!” toys around, I don’t blame her either. The spa kit isn’t what I would get her myself, but as the years swirl past me, I have learned I need to pick my battles. Am I really going to throw down over a spa kit? Plus Mindware’s search box on the left doesn’t ask if you want to search by gender, which is a HUGE sign of progress.

So do I wish my daughter would squeal about a microscope? Kinda. But she did gawk at the chemistry set!

* I say that because most engineering schools/colleges will start their curriculum at calculus for first-year students. Thus if a student enters and isn’t ready for calculus, they can feel (or made to feel) as if they are ‘behind’ and that’s quite an enthusiasm killer. Also, if you are ready for calculus your first year, you have just about the entire college catalog open to you. More math = more choices.