Standing on their shoulders

Are Paly students with STEM parents more likely to follow in their footsteps?

We at Veritas magazine try not to discern between STEM people — or those who pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) — and non-STEM people. Our audience is the student body: not students taking AP science classes, not students with scientist parents, not even students who know what the four-letter acronym stands for, just students.

But after juggling robotics, Science Olympiad and science journalism, among other fantastic feats of STEMasochism, I dare anyone to dispute that I am, in fact, a STEM person. My colleagues likely identify the same way, and each of us have our reasons for taking on this identity in the first place. I had two significant overworked, middle-aged ones of my own.

My parents both work at home co-managing a software startup company, and while aspiring to be a software developer was my choice, their constant squabbling about the latest bad hire or broken feature actually endeared me to that choice. For the past three and a half years, I’ve surrounded myself with STEM enthusiasts whose parents influenced their path as well. Do these observations reflect the larger Palo Alto High School community? Does having a parent in one of those fields increases one’s chance of following suit? If so, by what process? To what degree?

6In order to find answers, I surveyed a cross section of 185 Paly students* about their career-related interactions with their parents, and each generation’s relationship with STEM pursuits. Whether you’re nodding your head in solidarity or nodding off in boredom, I hope the resulting data tells your story as much as it tells mine.

1. Going against the grain
2. More parents, more influence

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