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Encouraging girls in math and science

Much2learnMuch2learn 4610 replies168 threads Senior Member
I was very impressed by this commercial about how parents can unintentionally send the wrong messages to girls abut math and science. It already has over 2 million views. What do you think?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP3cyRRAfX0

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Replies to: Encouraging girls in math and science

  • Much2learnMuch2learn 4610 replies168 threads Senior Member
    One person who saw this commented that they did not see what is wrong with telling a girl she is pretty. I have to say that I agree that there is nothing wrong with that, per se. In fact, there is probably nothing wrong with any of the things the parents said in the ad individually.

    I just think it challenges parents to think about the comments that they make to their kids, and the messages that those comments send in aggregate. Many girls are given the message that being pretty is the most important thing by the most well intended people. I am sure that I have been guilty of it at times too, but I do try to be aware of these types of things and improve.

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  • momofthreeboysmomofthreeboys 16651 replies66 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2014
    I don't know coming from a family of all engineers...male and female...except me... it's hard to imagine someone would discourage a woman if she was interested. I was never interested in math although my father lobbied hard. My sister was a very pretty engineer and still is...only 1 of 2 in her engineering graduating class concentration in the 70s...she had lots and lots of boyfriends I'll give her that.
    edited June 2014
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  • GMTplus7GMTplus7 14268 replies297 threads Senior Member
    I doubt there is a shortage of girls today pursuing science majors in college. I think a large part of the problem lies with female students disproportionately picking life sciences, rather than physical sciences, engineering, CS. The non-life sciences majors are the ones that provide high-paying jobs w only a bachelors degree.
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  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn 42052 replies2271 threads Super Moderator
    edited June 2014
    I always liked math and my dad was (and still is) a structural engineering professor, but I didn't think of going into the field until he made a comment at a party for his students about my being "the next engineer in the family." I thought, huh, I guess I COULD do that! It's probably a good thing I didn't think about the fact that my spatial abilities are about zero, or I would have picked a different field! I've had to train myself to think in 3D - my brain is flat as a pancake, it feels like.

    My sister was also good at math, but she didn't like it. So she became a teacher.

    I met my future husband in engineering grad school. :)

    My daughter is NOT mathematically inclined at all. She takes honors math, but has to work at it very hard. My older son, on the other hand, is a math whiz, even with his severe mental illness. He blows me away!
    edited June 2014
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  • FlossyFlossy 3118 replies3 threads Senior Member
    A local girl scout troop won our statewide engineering competition. The had two female engineer mentors.
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  • VladenschlutteVladenschlutte 4292 replies37 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2014
    Is there actually a shortage of women in Math and Science? I thought Science majors were generally about 50/50 gender ratio and Math at something like 1/3 female 2/3 male.

    The commercial was a pretty weird. Wasn't a whole lot to do with Math, Science, or Engineering (not mentioned in the topic title but often associated with). The first one was about getting dirty, not sure how that relates to anything academic. The 2nd one corresponded with possibly marine biology, I don't know if we really need more people in that. The 3rd one was art, I don't even know what they were trying to imply. The 4th one was about using a power drill, so maybe discouraging her from being a mechanic or carpenter but has nothing to do with any academic field.

    Someone's gonna have to dumb this down for me because I'm just not getting the message. Anyone in marketing?
    edited June 2014
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  • momofthreeboysmomofthreeboys 16651 replies66 threads Senior Member
    I thought it was weird also....my parents were born in the 20s...and they never discouraged any of us from doing anything we wanted and they certainly balanced excelling at all academics with caring about our bodies in a healthy way. There are 3 to 4 generations now between my parents and children today. I don't think we as a society 'teach our girls' to be pretty and not get dirty. Maybe some rare pockets of cultures but not in the mainstream. As a marketer the commercial felt very contrived and if it was targeted toward a particular culture that stills keeps the little woman frying the bacon in a dress, it's a mighty small target audience and I really can't figure out who "they' are.
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  • YnotgoYnotgo 3882 replies58 threads Senior Member
    Yes, as @GMTplus7‌ said, the big disparity is in Engineering and Computer Science. Here is a graph I say recently that shows how big the difference is depending on the sub-field of STEM: http://www.randalolson.com/2014/06/14/percentage-of-bachelors-degrees-conferred-to-women-by-major-1970-2012/
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  • Much2learnMuch2learn 4610 replies168 threads Senior Member
    @momofthreeboys " it's a mighty small target audience and I really can't figure out who "they' are."

    I think our opinions on this differ because of our personal experience. You probably have a more progressive family who are more highly educated, and live in a more progressive area. You do not see these things happen, and so you think that the audience is small. I see them happen frequently, so I think the problem is much larger.

    In reality I don't know how big it is, I just know that I see it frequently.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 83438 replies741 threads Senior Member
    My sister was also good at math, but she didn't like it. So she became a teacher.

    A math teacher?
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  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn 42052 replies2271 threads Super Moderator
    ^No, special ed. She's amazing.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 83438 replies741 threads Senior Member
    Is there actually a shortage of women in Math and Science? I thought Science majors were generally about 50/50 gender ratio and Math at something like 1/3 female 2/3 male.

    Biological sciences are majority female these days. Chemistry is about even. But other sciences and engineering are heavily male.
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  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn 42052 replies2271 threads Super Moderator
    I am one of two, occasionally three, women when I attend meetings of our state structural engineers' association. I've known a lot of the men for a long time, so I don't feel out of place.
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  • DrGoogleDrGoogle 11022 replies24 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2014
    Well I disagree with this ad. Even if the parents don't mention the word pretty, other people do, then what are you going to do about it? I never pushed my kids into STEM or non-STEM. My kids played with barbie dolls and leggos when they were younger. One decided to do STEM and one NOT.
    edited June 2014
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  • Much2learnMuch2learn 4610 replies168 threads Senior Member
    "Well I disagree with this ad..."

    Why is it bad to educate people about how their word choices can impact girls?

    I can understand people who think that does not apply to them, or do not see this type of thing occurring, but what is there to disagree with? Clearly, it is not a perfect world, and even if you choose your words more carefully, others will not always do the same, but raising awareness is a step in the right direction.

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  • turtletimeturtletime 1249 replies13 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2014
    Well, I for one would have told her to put the sea star down because everyone knows when tidepooling to keep the animals in the water and only touch with one finger to avoid injury to them lol.

    I dressed my daughter in overalls. Avoided pink at all costs. We got dirty hiking, gardening and doing wild kitchen science experiments. We read books about adventurous girls. She loved wrestling with her daddy and thought rock-climbing with him the best afternoon ever. Her hand-painted solar system is STILL hanging in her room (though I would have taken issue with her sprinkling glitter on what seems to be an unprotected bedroom floor and hanging planets over her bed when they were still obviously wet. My D had cars and trains and I delighted in her playing with them. Then one day I paid attention to exactly HOW she played with her cars... she had a mommy car, daddy car and baby car that were all going on a picnic. At that point, I stopped trying so hard. She has always been good at math and science.They just don't speak to her like history and the arts do. My son LOVES science and math even though, being the younger sibling, he was immersed in D's world of art and cultures.

    These sort of ads are well meaning and I don't disagree exactly. I still remember the day my dad wouldn't let me install a car stereo and asked my brother instead. However, I now know it's because my brother was struggling a the time and my dad was desperate for ways to connect with him. At the time I was furious and I reacted by training as a theatrical electrician with a focus on special effects. It was unfair to judge my dad poorly in that situation because for that one time he said "give it to your brother" there were other times like the transistor radio we built together or when my dad would wake me at 3 in the morning to see a comet. I just think the ad is oversimplification. The goal should be raising confident girls who can do anything they want. A parent shouldn't wonder what they did wrong if their girl didn't go into science or math.

    In the end, it's an Ad for Verizon who wants to sell their products and look good to the public lol.
    edited June 2014
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  • Much2learnMuch2learn 4610 replies168 threads Senior Member
    @turtletime "The goal should be raising confident girls who can do anything they want."

    That is right. However, there are a lot of people who believe that boys are good at math and girls are good at English. When parents and other adults act based on that assumption, it can become self-fulfilling. They are channeling kids to subjects and away from subjects without even knowing it.

    In my experience, the root of this issue is the number of very capable girls who are not in the highest math groups. For whatever reason, in our school system by the end of elementary, asian students, and boys are significantly overrepresented in the advanced math classes.

    Once you are behind the top students in math it can be much harder to catch up than in other subjects because topics are often sequential. Lack of math skills also impairs ability to do well in physical sciences, engineering and technology.
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  • DrGoogleDrGoogle 11022 replies24 threads Senior Member
    I thought the ad is unreal, I would never walk around and saying what a pretty girl to any of my kids. But I'm all for raising confident girls to do what they want to do and not just math. Frankly, I grew up from a family who has a healthy respect for female, starting with my father. His mom was a super achiever, so there is no problem there.

    But my girls are raised with both engineering parents, so if anything we may unintentionally raised them to be more math/science oriented. And the myth about boys are good in math and girls are good in English does not exist in my family. :D. My husband is pretty bad in math but excelled in physics, I on the other hand is good in math but bad in English or any language for that matters.

    BTW, my daughter was an all around swimmer and played water polo, it helps her tremendously in life and I ignore people who told me swimmers have big arms(so what). I also have one that was at the same MIT program, but I had pangs seeing the neighborhood blondes walking leisurely to the swimming pool that summer and wondering what the heck did I do to my kid, maybe I should not go on CC and let my kid have a nice leisure summer. Just different perspective.
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  • wis75wis75 14383 replies65 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2014
    Great ad. Gentle enough to not antagonize the parents who subtly discourage their daughters but direct enough with specific scenarios.

    I majored in chemistry, like the biological, not the physical, aspects. Went to medical school. Fellow women friends in chemistry did PChem, bioorganic and computer science after bachelors degrees. The PhD in PChem then did comp sci- she had debated doing a math major. Two had older sisters with PhD's in Chemistry related fields. The other's younger sister became a lawyer, my older sister was into elementary ed (NOT my cup of tea).

    I have a late 1950's photo of 4 girls ages 2-4- one is facing the camera wearing a shirt untucked and shorts, the other 3 camera shy ones chose dresses. I never did care about being neat, girly etc. I hated science in HS at some point (we had an integrated program combining the 3 major fields) and early in it I vehemently stated I was only going to take as much science as I had to. By senior year I politely told my Economics teacher I was going to major in Chemistry, not Econ because I liked it (even though I was great in Econ it didn't appeal to me). PS- no AP/IB in my day.

    In my (early '70's) day there were no mentors at UW, nor any women grad students in chemistry. I did my senior honors thesis with a woman who had a PhD in PChem but was in Pharmacology (since her H was in the Chem dept she couldn't get a job there in the '60's). A few decades later she said there was still discrimination against women in the sciences- she had been a guest lecturer/known expert in her field many times et al- a student award receiving medical school teacher and researcher for a long time. There are now several women faculty members of the UW Chemistry dept, and cross departmental appointments (not as separated as in my day- so much now in biological chemistry).

    You couldn't get me to do more math and physics simply because I preferred other aspects of chemistry. Another reason I preferred chemistry to Chem E. My HS had some women science teachers as well. Son had middle school good women math teachers. He majored in math and added comp sci (globally gifted, as were his parents, so choices evolved through interest and not ability). H became a physician in India so had no college undergrad major- he likes math and physics a lot. Now half the medical students are women, unlike the increasing numbers of my era. Give my son another decade to see if he ever meets a woman to love/marry- harder to meet peers in his field.

    Addenda. My mother ended up flunking out of college after being a top HS student. She didn't study. She would have been a great engineer (my father had an EE degree) but consistently was told girls don't do math/science in the late '40's. A lot of progress in succeeding generations- I have many discrimination/anti women stories to tell from medical school (some older male physicians never were taught properly about women's abilities et al).
    edited June 2014
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