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Encouraging girls in math and science


Replies to: Encouraging girls in math and science

  • Much2learnMuch2learn Registered User Posts: 4,772 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.

  • turtletimeturtletime Registered User Posts: 1,244 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.
  • Much2learnMuch2learn Registered User Posts: 4,772 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.
  • DrGoogleDrGoogle Registered User Posts: 11,047 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.
  • wis75wis75 Registered User Posts: 13,890 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).
  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn Super Moderator Posts: 39,251 Super Moderator
    My FIL met my MIL when he was in medical school on the GI bill after WWII. He assumed that my MIL was a candy-striper. Someone laughed at him and said, "Not only is she a med student, she's farther along and smarter than you are!" He specialized in OB/gyn, and she in pediatrics. They moved to Madison, Wisconsin in the mid-50s, and my FIL's partners decided it would be a conflict of interest (???) for her to practice pediatrics, so they told her to switch!! She became a psychiatrist, but became so disenchanted with the meds that she switched to homeopathic medicine.
  • dyiu13dyiu13 Registered User Posts: 2,866 Senior Member
    Take a look at Cosmo Girl etc to get a whiff of the messages directed to women. Look at mags for young males to see what messages they're getting about women. Just for thought.
  • 3girls3cats3girls3cats Registered User Posts: 1,979 Senior Member
    Great ad. Gentle enough to not antagonize the parents who subtly discourage their daughters but direct enough with specific scenarios.

    Agree completely! I don't think the intention is to take it quite so literally but to raise awareness as to how our subtle and not so subtle reactions affect our children.

    My daughter started high school in a math track that wasn't the highest one. We wondered whether this was an appropriate placement but the head of the math department was very discouraging and harped on how "difficult" the program was and how few kids survived it. Note: the class was overwhelmingly male and the girls who joined it dropped out at a much higher rate. D was scared off. She spent a year in the recommended class and then asked to move to the highest level. She took and passed a placement test but was repeatedly discouraged from making the leap.

    I consider myself a pretty progressive parent who has tried very hard over the years not to impart the sorts of messages shown in that ad. Yet, when the math teachers continued to suggest that D would meet with failure in this rigorous, intense math class and that she had to "really want it" and be prepared for frustration, I was cowed. I went so far as to suggest to her that maybe she should consider opting out.

    You can guess the end of the story. She thrived in the class. Yes, she worked hard. Yes, it was hard. But after a year, she told me that she no longer panicked at the sight of an "impossible" math problem. She can't believe that she thought the math she did in middle school was hard. She's so much more confident about math now and she understands that it, like many other skills, is something that can be learned.

    The thing is, I probably did send messages that were discouraging. I was worried she'd be over her heard. I was worried that so few girls managed to survive that math track.

    @turtletime, I laughed appreciatively about your comments about the sea star. I would have been the parent telling ANY kid to put the animal back into his environment. Also about the glittery, wet planets. That project WAS out of control, lol.
  • actingmtactingmt Registered User Posts: 1,900 Senior Member
    It's just not a very good ad, imho. The intended message is okay, although I happen to think pretty is quite helpful, too. But the ad fails to make much of a point. It seems those who want to get the point appreciate it and everyone else is kind of saying, "Huh?" My older daughter did not do high level math, but so what? Plenty of girls did and she chose not to, I don't mind a bit. She is very smart, though.
  • Erin's DadErin's Dad Super Moderator Posts: 36,424 Super Moderator
    I think most people would agree that most CC parents are not the type to limit studies by tradition. I was always sad my older D didn't go into math. Her pull out math teacher in 4th grade who had a PhD in math said she was supersharp, but she gravitated to English. Still has a good job. Her sister was the math major (as was their mother). DW still takes our young teen son out to look at comets and flora. Equal opportunity rearing.
  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 Registered User Posts: 35,861 Senior Member
    edited June 2014
    I was born in the 1950's.
    I was very aware of different messages for boys and girls.
    However that was over 50 years ago.
    We now have many STEM based schools, camps, including those targeting girls and minority girls.


    Which is all great.
    However, I am much more concerned about the lack of accurate health education in our schools and the paucity of available health care including contraception for teens.
    Teen pregnancy rates impact life choices much more than a Verizon ad.
    Inaccurate Information:

    In 41 states and the District of Columbia, schools that teach sex education are not required to teach medically accurate information. They are allowed to- and often encouraged to- provide statistics that inflate the failure rate of contraceptives or emphasize only the risks of abortion. Exploiting the possible ineffectiveness of contraceptives can have devastating effects. Students who choose to engage in sexual activity may decide not to use protection, believing it will not make a difference. Without using protection, they can risk both pregnancy and contracting STDs. Teaching inaccurate information also sets a dangerous precedent for future health instruction. If students discover that they are not being given the truth, they may be reluctant to believe their teachers about other health issues and safety measures.
  • sylvan8798sylvan8798 Registered User Posts: 6,749 Senior Member
    I have a problem with the apparent idea that it's an either/or thing. A lot of STEM fields women I know are not at all "girly". They wear their hair very short and wash-and-wear. They dress in jeans, etc, and often don't wear makeup. Whether they are afraid of not being taken seriously or are just expressing their natural personalities, I don't know.

    Personally, I LIKE pretty clothes, shoes, jewelry, and I always wear makeup - lots of makeup ;). I color my hair and do my best to have an attractive (generally longer) hairstyle. When I was younger I never played down my looks. If people have a problem with that, it's THEIR problem.
  • YoHoYoHoYoHoYoHo Registered User Posts: 2,001 Senior Member
    I liked the ad. I am a feminist who used to be a CS major and an EE major who eventually changed to become a MD. I am particularly sensitive about the words said intentionally or unintentionally by all sorts of folks around me (including my inlaws) to my daughter and the messages delivered by media: TV, movies, magazines, print ads etc. which reinforce female stereotypes. It's just nice to see an ad that at least points some of this out to the general public so that maybe it can increase awareness. And I agree with much2learn's posts.
  • DrGoogleDrGoogle Registered User Posts: 11,047 Senior Member
    edited June 2014
    @sylvan8798, YMMV. I personally hate long hair because it makes me hot. Besides you can't wear short hair if you don't have an attractive face, it shows. I think people hide behind long hair, both my kids have long hair, the non-STEM girl wears make up, it's a sorority thing. The STEM girl likes make up but don't wear it all the time, it's a non-sorority thing. My husband is from Europe and he likes short hair. He has a beautiful sister, she was a model when she was younger, she also wears short hair and very little make up. So maybe it's an American thing, long hair and lots of make up, or is it a sorority thing.
    EDIT to add I know a very successful general manager of a high tech firm with long blond hair, when I first met her, I thought she was a secretary. I know I'm stereotyping here but she is very smart CS/Engineer person. :D
  • Much2learnMuch2learn Registered User Posts: 4,772 Senior Member
    1.It is interesting to me that many of you do not see gender biased comments as a concern in your own families. Perhaps it is more of a Midwestern relic than I realized?I thought that ccers were unlikely to be that parent, but I thought more of you would see this as a concern. Is it not happening or are people blind to it? I am not sure. Perhaps some of both.

    2. I find it interesting that many people did not understand the ad at all. I thought it was clear, but I guess not.

    3. I agree that health education is a big problem too. Oddly where we live it is actually pretty good, but where my brother's family lives it is very bad. His daughters went to a religious high school with a very very high pregnancy rate. Thankfully, neither of my nieces succumbed to that fate. There is a very strong political lobby that opposes telling students the truth in sex education class, so I am not sure that much can be done at the macro level. I can only save my own kids for now.

    4. As far as high level math, it is clearly not for everyone. There are lots of girls that should not be there. The issue is that many girls who really should be in those classes are not. This year in D1's MV calc class (HS senior) there were 25 students: 21 boys and 4 girls. While my sample size is small, I don't think that it is atypical. Interestingly the girls who are there are doing very well.
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