Is There a Negative Side of Encouraging Girls to Major in STEM?
By Elle Green on July 09, 2014
Featured Member Post
If you're a woman, and especially if you have daughters/are thinking about having children, you've probably thought about the word "pretty." How boys are praised for—and get away with—their actions, and girls are praised for being pretty and ladylike. And how to navigate the whole body image jungle of what used to be just the teen years, but now possibly includes a girl's entire life through adulthood.
Anyway. I'm not actually a parent and not looking to be anytime soon. But I thought this video was interesting: What a little girl hears when you tell her she's pretty. Based on the statistic that 66% of fourth grade girls say they like science and math, but only 18% of engineering majors are women (what about STEM as a whole?), this video shows how social cues push women away from these fields.
As a side note, it's also worth noting that cultural ideas of education are different. The idea that you're either good at math or you're not is just not present in some cultures, but we take it as a given and a reason to give up. It also reminded me of a slam poem I heard way back when: The word pretty is unworthy of everything you will ever be.
If you don't have time to watch the Verizon spot, the basic storyline follows a little girl who likes science. She likes collecting rocks and exploring the outdoors. She's always told not to get her dress dirty, or to let her brother do things for her. And at the end, she passes over entering a science fair in favor of putting on lip gloss.
It's a powerful message. Yet another example of how we pass on our beliefs to our children.
But at the same time, I'm beyond sick of hearing how few girls are in STEM fields. It's the typical, "oh, we think girls should do this so we're going to denigrate what they actually do." So there are fewer women in university STEM majors, I bet they do have hard times, it would be great if more high schoolers planned on entering those fields, and it is great that girls/women with these interests are getting encouraged.
But men were the minorities in all my language classes. In all of my classes, probably. I'm kind of laughing as I write this because some people would say, "That's the point of the STEM debate." But hey, while women were learning to communicate in other languages, to understand and function in a globalized world, to think critically about transnational issues, men in STEM classes were learning how they could fail exams and yet pass the class with an inadequate command of the subject material because of some crazy curve grading.
And the blogosphere seems dominated by women. Mommy and fashion bloggers are looked down on, probably by people [men] who have never tried to be creative daily. And okay, we all know that there's a lot of vapid nonsense out there on the Internet, but I won't hold women solely accountable for that. The only male bloggers I've connected with are travel bloggers, and there's plenty of women/solo female travelers out there. I see a ton of blog/website designers out there; that's STEM. A lot are self-taught, which is awesome, but it goes under the radar since they don't show up on university statistics.
Also, I would have been one of those 66% of elementary school girls who said they liked science and math. But then I went to college, where I could study whatever I wanted, and I found something I liked more. Nothing wrong with that—just your expectations.
What do you think? Since most of you readers are women, after all.