Researchers are trying to tease apart the reasons why girls are less likely to become scientists and engineers. Marc Romanelli/Getty Images/Blend Images
Girls in the first few years of elementary school are less likely than boys to say that their own gender is “really, really smart,” and less likely to opt into a game described as being for super-smart kids, research finds.
The study, which appears Thursday in Science, comes amid a push to figure out why women are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields. One line of research involves stereotypes, and how they might influence academic and career choices.
Andrei Cimpian, a professor of psychology at New York University and an author of the study, says his lab’s previous work showed that women were particularly underrepresented in both STEM and humanities fields whose members thought you needed to be brilliant — that is, to have innate talent — to succeed.
“You might think these stereotypes start in college, but we know from a lot of developmental work that children are incredibly attuned to social signals,” Cimpian says. So they decided to look at kids from ages 5 to 7, the period during which stereotypes seem to start to take hold.
Across the various questions, 5-year-old boys said their own gender was smart 71 percent of the time, compared to 69 percent of the time for girls. Among 6-year-olds, the numbers were 65 percent for boys and 48 percent for girls. And among 7-year-olds, it was 68 percent for boys and 54 percent for girls.
“The surprising thing is that already, by age 6, girls and boys are saying different things,” says Sapna Cheryan, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Washington who wasn’t involved with the research. “Before they’ve heard of physics or computer science they are getting these messages.”
Another experiment showed that even as older girls were less likely to associate their own gender with brilliance, they (correctly) assessed that at their age, girls were more likely to get good grades in school.
And another experiment asked 6- and 7-year-olds about the appeal of two similar imaginary games, one intended for “children who are really, really smart,” and one for “children who try really, really hard.” Girls were less interested than boys in the game aimed at smart kids but interest was similar in the game for hard workers.
The research can’t explain how these messages are getting to kids or how they could be changed, says Cimpian. He is planning a long-term study of young children that would measure environmental factors, including media exposure and parental beliefs. That would give a better idea of what factors predict the emergence of stereotypes, and what levers are available to change attitudes.
Research does suggest that role models might “inoculate” women and members of other underrepresented groups. So the movie Hidden Figures, about female African-American mathematicians at NASA during the late 1950s and early 1960s, could inspire girls and teens of color to pursue STEM fields.
But it’s also important to step back and ask what the goal of any intervention should be, says Cheryan.
Girls, after all, were split about evenly in associating brilliance with their gender, she notes. The boys were more likely to make the association with their own gender. So do girls need help in thinking more like the boys, or vice versa? Cimpian says it’s important not to fall into the trap of always assuming it’s the girls who need to change. But he says that girls at this age are usually overwhelmingly positive about their own gender, so any deviation from that baseline may suggest the beginning of negative attitudes.
Another approach is to change the characterization of the academic fields themselves, namely that certain areas require inborn brilliance rather than hard work.
“Stereotypes are all about who has an innate ability,” says Cimpian. If kids were instead exposed to the idea that success comes not because of fixed ability, but because of hard work over time (a so-called “growth mindset,” the idea developed by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck,) maybe those stereotypes would lose their punch.
Kids might also benefit from being exposed early on to fields like engineering, which aren’t typically studied in high school, to demystify them, says Cheryan.
Katherine Hobson is a freelance health and science writer based in Brooklyn, N.Y. She’s on Twitter: @katherinehobson.
“Hidden Figures,” the hit film that tells the story of three black women who helped NASA send a man into orbit, has been praised for putting women of color in the spotlight.
That’s why people across the country ― teens, teachers and community leaders ― are raising money through GoFundMe to ensure young girls can see the movie.
One of those people is Taylor Richardson, a 13-year-old aspiring astronaut from Florida, who wants to send 100 girls to see “Hidden Figures” at a theater in Jacksonville, Florida. She also wants to raise money on GoFundMe for the girls to have snacks and get a copy of the “Hidden Figures” book.
Richardson first saw the movie at a screening at the White House and has since seen it three more times. She said the film was “amazing.”
“I cried, I laughed, I got angry and then got determined to not let others’ impressions of me because of the color of my skin impact how my life will be,” she told The Huffington Post. “These black women did something I never knew about, and it’s not in any history books that I’ve studied thus far.”
As of Friday, Richardson has raised $2,540 of her $2,600 goal. She found the girls she plans to take to see the film from organizations that have impacted her life like the YMCA, Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, See The Girl and Journey Into Womanhood. She wants them to go home after the movie feeling as inspired as she did.
“This movie instills that us girls can dream big and make it even when odds are against us,” she said. “Most importantly I want girls to know that, like boys, they too can excel in STEM with hard work.”
Several teachers across the country have also started GoFundMe campaigns to help send their students to see the influential film. After reaching his goal of $1,000, Peter Modlin will be taking girls in second, third, fourth and fifth grade who attend the Baltimore elementary school where he teaches. Modlin told HuffPost he hopes the students learn to dream big after watching the movie.
“I want the girls to see this movie in hopes that a lightbulb might go off,” he said. “A lightbulb that signifies a belief in the opportunity to do or be anything they want to be, if they work hard to achieve that goal.”
Like Richardson and Modlin, Phyllis Marshall raised money on GoFundMe so local girls could see “Hidden Figures,” and has since taken them to see it.
On Jan. 7, she took 50 girls from Roberts Family Development Center in Sacramento, California, to the theater. She’s worked with the center, which is in a low-income community and provides after-school care, for years. Through GoFundMe she raised more than her $1,500 goal, which provided transportation, snacks and tickets to the movie. Marshall said “they loved it.”
Marshall was glad to be able to show the girls that women can succeed in science, technology and mathematics. She was especially thrilled to show them that women of color and their success deserve a place on the big screen.
“I certainly hope as many young girls get to see that movie as possible.”
Other teachers and community leaders are raising money for kids to see “Hidden Figures, too. Check out their campaigns below.
What’s more offensive? A little girl saying “fuck” or the unequal and sexist way society treats girls and women? #MicBrights
Love this! What is more offensive????
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been paying for advertising in the NY Times on Improving the Status of Women and Girls Worldwide. This ad focuses on the lack of data collection on women and girls and its effects.
How Efforts to Collect Data About Women and Girls Drive Global Economic and Social Progress
The data gap often starts early. Barriers to birth registrations can impede mobility later, as well as access to health care and other essential services for mothers and children. The gap continues with male-biased surveys that fail to capture women’s perspectives, their needs and their economic value.
“When we don’t count women or girls, they literally become invisible,” says Sarah Hendriks, director of gender equality at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The dearth of data makes it difficult to set policies and gauge progress, preventing governments and organizations from taking measurable steps to empower women and improve lives, says Mayra Buvinic, a U.N. Foundation senior fellow working on Data2X, an initiative aimed at closing the gender data gap.
“Not having data on a certain area, behavior or society means that you cannot design the right policies, you cannot track progress, you cannot evaluate,” she says. “You are basically not accountable.”
In 2015, the member states of the United Nations adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity over the next 15 years. But without accurate global data on women and girls, there’s no way to measure progress toward achieving the goals for gender equality and the global ambition to “leave no one behind.”
That’s fueling efforts to close the gender data gap, from setting international standards to re-evaluating old, gender-biased collection techniques. Organizations are already trying new ways to gather, analyze and act on data to improve the health, education, economic opportunity, political participation and security of women and girls around the world.
Rethinking the Questions
Old methods of data collection and analysis are often inadequate or innately biased, designed in ways that fail to take into account the reality of women’s lives.
Traditionally, for example, household surveys are anchored around a “head of household” — defined generally as the adult male — and regard other household members only in relation to the “head.” As a result, female-led households may be undercounted and overlooked in the distribution of resources.
What’s more, Buvinic says, survey questions may be based on traditional views of gender roles and therefore yield “bad data” that paints an inaccurate picture.
For instance, labor force studies designed to gauge economic participation often ask only about “primary activity.” These surveys were conceived with a very particular view of how work takes place, defining work as a typical 9-to-5 paid job mostly done by men, while women’s unpaid housework and care work is not counted, Buvinic says.
Moving Forward on Gender Statistics
countries reporting gender-specific data since 2005
Once the work of women is accurately measured, governments can start shaping policy and deploying resources to better help women as economic producers, increasing their productivity and income. The changes will “have a very favorable impact on economies and on the GDP,” Buvinic says.
New Methods and Approaches
Change can be as direct as training and providing new tools to the people who collect and analyze data, or as broad as finding new techniques for mining existing data sets to separate or disaggregate responses by gender and age. Sometimes, new ways of finding and engaging women and girls must be invented.
One such innovation is the Girl Roster, a toolkit developed by the Population Council, a New York-based research organization, and its partners to reach adolescent girls, particularly those in the poorest communities and marginalized from society. The goal of the Girl Roster, which is being implemented in parts of Africa, the Middle East, Central America and Asia, is to help programs build structures and determine methodologies suited for this often overlooked group.
In the field, local program staff go door-to-door within a defined geographic area to ask key adults about girls who reside there, including information about their schooling, marital and childbearing status, and living arrangements. Data is recorded on smartphones and quickly collated to create a picture of the young women’s lives and needs. The program staff then engage the most off-track girls in support groups designed to connect them with needed services and community resources.
“The Girl Roster has helped us identify who’s there and who is able to access services and then see how to target these girls who are not being reached,” says Kelly Hallman, a senior associate in the Poverty, Gender and Youth Program at the Population Council. “The girls left behind are really what the Girl Roster is designed to try to address.”
The challenges of reaching adolescent girls are underscored by a 2014 Population Council study, in which groups of boys and girls in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province were asked to map areas in the community they could access, including where they felt safe and unsafe. The research found that the area defined as “community” by girls — their access to the public sphere — shrunk dramatically at puberty, from 6.33 to 2.62 square miles, while the range of boys expanded, from 3.79 to 7.81 square miles.
Shrinking Mobility for Adolescent Girls In South Africa
SOURCE: Global Public Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice
“It’s really that invisibility that comes over girls as they enter into puberty, because their parents are trying to protect them and keep them close to the house,” says Hallman, who co-authored the study.
Other innovative programs are creating a virtuous cycle in which programs designed to empower adolescent girls are generating new sets of data that inform existing or future services. This reflects the need for data to capture nuanced and complex information on girls’ lives, such as shifts in social norms or the impact of girls’ participation in decision-making.
In South Africa, the Girls Achieve Power (GAP) Year program uses sports not only as a way to help participants feel good about themselves but also provide a safe space to mentor them on HIV, teen pregnancy, sexual violence and the value of education.
“While we’re doing that, we’ll gather scientific data that will help us build even better programs for girls,” says Saiqa Mullick, the director of implementation science at Wits Reproductive Health & HIV Institute and leader of the GAP Year program.
Making the Invisible Visible
Data alone, however, doesn’t set policy, says Buvinic of Data2X. “We have to get politicians and countries designing programs based on data,” she says. “There’s no point in generating all this new data if it’s not going to be used.”
Track20 was created to do just that, by working directly with governments around the world to help them collect better data more often and use it to make real, measurable progress in reaching women with family planning. The group, implemented by Glastonbury, (Conn.)-based Avenir Health, tracks progress toward Family Planning 2020, a U.N.-backed global initiative with a goal of giving an additional 120 million women and girls in developing countries access to voluntary family planning services by 2020.
Access to more data, of better quality and greater frequency, provides governments with a “huge opportunity to be responsive to their communities and to provide services that meet the needs of the people using those services,” says Emily Sonneveldt, Track20’s project director.
The new data also creates “a responsibility to be responsive and to make sure that you’re listening and digesting the data and information and using it to improve programs,” she says.
In other words, it provides — and requires — accountability.
Still, she says, the governments she works with are excited about the opportunity to use data to make progress in measurable ways. “They want information that helps inform their programs and tells them how to do better.”
Since 1995, for instance, the number of mothers dying during childbirth has dropped more than 40 percent worldwide, though parts of the world have seen less progress. And though data show improved access to primary education, parts of Asia and Africa lag especially at the secondary level while all countries struggle with a gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math studies.
Additional data will not only help uncover the sources of inequality but also guide policy makers, said Melanne Verveer, then-U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, at a 2012 conference on the gender data gap.
“Data not only measures progress, it inspires it,” she said. “To achieve the progress we seek and to make the best decisions we can, we need to ensure that women are counted in all that we do. Nothing less than our collective prosperity and security is at stake.”
When Women Count: The Ripple Effects of Equality
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on May 19, 2016 at 11:17 AM, updated May 19, 2016 at 11:39 AM
By Michelle Ganow-Jones and Sophia Carlson
It’s the time of year for two interconnected seasons: spring and dress-coding. With warmer weather, students everywhere opt for lighter garb that’s more comfortable outside and in the classroom. Unfortunately, what’s comfortable for kids doesn’t always satisfy school dress codes.
School officials’ attempts to define, require and enforce “appropriate” student attire have led — rightfully — to a national conversation about how dress codes are inconsistently applied and disproportionately target young women. Their enforcement is sexist, results in lost instructional time and sends girls a dangerous message: Their bodies are a distraction, they are responsible for the responses of others and what they wear is more important than what they learn.
Recently, a student at a Portland Public Schools middle school spent two hours in the school office because her parents couldn’t be reached to bring her replacement clothing, missing an entire class. What’s accomplished here — aside from lost instructional time? Nothing positive.
A disturbing problem that accompanies the dress code is body shaming. Just last week, another female middle school student was stopped by a male teacher and asked, “Are those shorts legal?” Comments like these are common and make girls feel unsafe, embarrassed and concerned that both teachers and their fellow students see something wrong with their bodies.
These incidents aren’t limited to older students; it’s happening in kindergarten, too. Starting at the age of 5, girls are being told to check the width of their shirt straps and the length of their shorts and skirts, lest they expose too much skin and distract the boys. At the earliest age, we begin to sexualize girls’ bodies — and hold them responsible for the responses of others. Current dress codes create an unequal social and educational environment for girls.
Obviously there are necessary components of a school dress code prohibiting vulgar, violent or offensive words and images, and requiring safe clothing in activities like sports, science lab or wood/metal shop. But ultimately, clothing “suitable for learning” is whatever a student chooses to wear. Period. If parents want to promote modesty, that is a private matter — one for our taxpayer-funded public schools to avoid.
We all need to acknowledge what the real issues are: sexism, sexual harassment and over-sexualizing and policing girls’ and women’s bodies. We must question the effectiveness of a dress code to solve these underlying problems, the disproportionate impact of the current system on girls and what our boys learn from the “cover it up” approach.
In response to these issues, girls across the nation — including here in Portland — are raising awareness about shameful and inequitable dress codes. They are clear: Don’t sexualize my body or force me to cover it up. They are calling for schools to adopt gender-neutral, non-sexist student dress codes that never result in lost class time.
Fortunately, we have an opportunity right now in Portland to do just that. Over the past year, a districtwide advisory committee has met to review the current dress code and its enforcement. That committee recommended a revised code, currently under assistant superintendent review, incorporating these very principles. We call on district leadership to recommend and for the school board to adopt this much needed update to the dress code.
In the end, our schools’ main priority is to educate students, including teaching them healthy and respectful ways to treat each other. We strive for our girls to learn in environments that value their brains and don’t punish them for having female bodies.
Michelle Ganow-Jones is executive director of the Oregon chapter of the National Organization for Women (Oregon NOW). Sophia Carlson is an 8th-grade student at Irvington K-8 in Portland.
Wind Energy Boomer Team – Send them to the nationals in New Orleans!!
Tayla Stevenson, Lillibelle Bassingthwaite and Madison Marchant made up a scientific team called “Toledo Elementary Boomers” and they very successfully competed in the Oregon Coast Renewable Energy Challenge held at Hatfield Marine Science Center. They did so well in the wind energy category they were invited to compete at the national level in New Orleans!
These talented young fifth graders breezed through the competition through ingenious engineering and team work. Their radical windmill design, made of cardboard, was good enough take second place in the Wind Energy Category for grades third through sixth.
Winners, including this talented team from Toledo, were invited to the National Wind Energy Challenge “KidWinds” windpower national level, sponsored by General Electric and American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The next level of competition will be held in New Orleans, LA, at the Ernest Morial Convention Center on May 23rd and 24th.
Unfortunately, there was no funding to support travel expenses to the National competition. So an account has been set up at the Toledo branch of Bank of the West to collect donations to help send the girls to the National competition in New Orleans.
They’ve also set up donation sites at local Toledo businesses such as Ace Hardward, Muggley’s, Food Fair, Pizza Me, Napa, Feed & Seed, Mike’s Mercantile and JC Market. Les Schwab’s Toledo location has already donated $50.00 to get the ball rolling!
Time is short to raise the funds needed, but the community has the ability to rally behind these clever collaborators to send them on to represent, not only Toledo, but Lincoln County at the KidWinds National Competition. Please visit one of these local businesses or stop in at any Bank of the West location to donate to the Kid Wind Energy Fund today!
For information about how to donate at Bank of the West, please call 541-336-2227.
May 1, 2016
During her time in the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama has championed so many important causes – many of them geared toward helping children and women around the world.
One of these crucial initiatives, launched last year, was Let Girls Learn – an effort to educate teenage girls. This effort was backed by studies that showed that when women and girls are educated, a nation’s economy rises. In an interview with a U.S. Agency for International Development publication, Michelle said:
“Studies from the World Bank show that one extra year of secondary school can increase a girl’s future income by 15 to 25 percent. And we know that when girls are educated, they are less likely to contract HIV, more likely to delay childbearing and vaccinate their children, and have lower maternal and infant mortality rates. Research even shows that sending more girls to school can boost an entire country’s GDP.”
The link between the education of girls and a nation’s GDP has been made before – and thanks to an analysis by Politifact, we now know that there’s a lot of truth to that statement.
According to research, when there are more girls in school, there is a higher gross domestic product – although there is some uncertainty if it’s a stronger economy that results in more girls being educated, or if having more girls in school leads to the rise of a nation’s economy. One policy report from the World Bank said:
“By effectively educating more women — that is, providing more women with a high-quality education — more will enter the labor market, and the economy will show the favorable results.”
Although educating girls has been shown to improve the economy, this doesn’t account for any obstacles women might encounter even if they are educated. Sexism and gender inequality can still have an impact on the economy even as efforts are made to put more girls in school and give them more resources and opportunities. According to a 2009 article in the journal Feminist Economics, the economic benefit will be lost if companies refuse to hire educated girls.
However, the gains of educating girls are far more than any roadblocks they may encounter. Education allows girls to make informed decisions about their lives and allows them to contribute to and help improve society. Michelle was dead on when she said:
“We need to get these girls into school, because we know that education is the single-most important stepping stone to power, to freedom, and to equality.”
A whole lot of shaking going on for girls in Lincoln County Oregon, thanks to the Central Oregon Coast NOW Foundation with funding from the Siletz Tribal Charitable Contribution Fund!
The FREE Earthquake Camp will provide Central Oregon Coast middle school girls with the opportunity to explore the world of earthquakes using skills in engineering geology and math!
Girls will learn about plate tectonics, great earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest, and even how to locate earthquakes! And, the girls will build their own working seismometer with a simpleamplifier circuit capable of recording nearby earthquakes!
An important part of learning about earthquakes is understanding the hazards they present. So the girls will learn how buildings can “resonate” in an earthquake. They will learn how liquefaction occurs. And how engineers strengthen buildings to make them more resilient to earthquake shaking.
The camp will wrap up by teaching the girls the steps to take to make sure they and their families are safe, and they will build an earthquake/ tsunami preparedness “go-bag” that they will be able to take home.
The FREE three day Earthquake Camp will be held at the Oregon Coast Community College North Campus in Lincoln City from Monday through Wednesday, July 18 to 20, 2016, 10 am to 3 pm
For more information contact Janice Eisele at 503-965-9950 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Or, fill out the application form and mail to Central Oregon Coast NOW, P.O. Box 354, Depoe Bay, OR 97341.
Published April 27, 2016, Newport News Times, Page 10
|The purpose of the 3-day camp is two-fold: to educate girls about the potential of earthquakes in the Pacific NW, and to encourage girls to consider a career in the sciences.|