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Encouraging girls in math and science

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Replies to: Encouraging girls in math and science

  • actingmtactingmt 1898 replies2 threads Senior Member
    Yeah, I don't really get it, either. The only female engineer I know is quite attractive and fashionable with (gasp) long hair, although it is frequently in a ponytail and she usually wears jeans and a graphic t-shirt while working in her home office. I think some fashionista's wear that at home, too.
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  • heartpondererheartponderer 25 replies0 threads New Member
    edited June 2014
    Why is there is such a push for girls to pursue careers dominated by men and not vice versa. Traditionally female careers such as teaching and nursing can be incredibly fulfilling. What message are we really sending to girls?

    If the jobs in engineering appeared more attractive to women, they would be more likely to go that way.

    Thirty years ago, I was encouraged to pursue engineering, and did so. While I loved studying engineering and did well, earning a MS, I have not really found being an engineer very fulfilling. I've experience many of the typical experiences of women engineers - being sidelined into less critical support roles, not allowed into the "men's" lunch club, and having work trivialized or used by more verbose men to beef up their technical creds. Companies I've worked for have undergone multiple rounds of layoffs to protect officer payouts, which puts pressure on those remaining to work more hours which isn't easy if there are kids at home. Corporate America is not known for making work fun, and engineering in particular can be underappreciated.

    I know very few women who studied engineering when I did who are still in it, while friends that are nurses or teachers have vital careers.

    edited June 2014
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  • IgloooIglooo 9232 replies226 threads Senior Member
    Why is there is such a push for girls to pursue careers dominated by men and not vice versa.

    To build up a critical mass? And we need as many stem majors as possible. We don't want girls shy away from stem if they are a good fit because they feel inhibited by male dominace.
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  • DrGoogleDrGoogle 11022 replies24 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2014
    Nurse is not for everyone either, male or female. I have a friend whose both sisters are nurse, guess what they hate the profession and only practice 8 hours a week. One went back to law school. Not to diss nursing, both my husband and I were helped greatly when were in the hospital by a lot of nurses.
    One simple truth is technology is where all the actions are, you have successful role models such as Meg Whitman, Marisa Myers, Sheryl Sandberg. I can only think of Florence Nightingale as a nurse. Maybe somebody can enlighten me with my limited knowledge.
    edited June 2014
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  • mathmommathmom 33220 replies163 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2014
    The engineering profession might be more female friendly if there were more of them. I went to architecture school right at the point when many schools started finally to have 50/50 gender split. I think architecture has become a much better profession for women since then - though the high powered star-architects still operate too much like Wall Street without the big bucks. I know a number of Mom and Pop civil engineering firms that seem to work pretty well.

    I hate to hear about girls being discouraged from the fast math tracks in high school, not because I want to push all girls into STEM careers, but because the lack of math closes a lot of doors or at least makes some majors unnecessarily difficult.
    edited June 2014
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  • DrGoogleDrGoogle 11022 replies24 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2014
    You know people made a big deal about not been at the fastest math track in high school but here is my story.
    For D1, I pushed for her to be at the gifted program because I knew she was gifted with language but not math, but at math was all they fast track. She ended up didn't like math at all even though up until 8th grade she was always top 3 math students. She did end up with 800 on SAT 1 math, but she never had any intention of studying anything but humanities in college.
    For D2, I learned my lesson, didn't push D2 to the fastest math path, she did end up senior year with AP Calc BC, and now she is a STEM major. I think even if she ended up with AP Calc AB she would have been a STEM major. It's her character and personality that matter and not what math class.
    For both kids they knew what their likes/dislikes and went with it.
    EDIT to add, the lower math class gave D2 more confidence than had she been at a higher math class.
    edited June 2014
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  • deb922deb922 6459 replies202 threads Senior Member
    The only math track at my kids school ended at AB Calc. So if she stayed on the non-honors track her highest math would have been pre-calc. Not an option we wanted with someone who wanted to be an engineer since 4th grade. It was the right decision and one I will never regret.
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  • mathmommathmom 33220 replies163 threads Senior Member
    To be clear, I think Calc BC is a fast enough track for high school, though I am grateful that our high school offered a higher track for my oldest. (And I believe there was only one girl taking Linear Equations with him senior year - that makes me sad and it only happened because of a conversation I had with that girl's parents at a party in 6th grade.)
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  • YoHoYoHoYoHoYoHo 1977 replies32 threads Senior Member
    @heartponder,
    I wish we had relaxation of gender bias to have more men go into more typical female jobs such as K-8 teaching. I think that we are short changing our young kids by having mainly women teachers because men bring a different perspective, interaction, and expectation to the classroom which I think is important.
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  • sylvan8798sylvan8798 6951 replies143 threads Senior Member
    DrGoogle wrote:
    She ended up didn't like math at all even though up until 8th grade she was always top 3 math students. She did end up with 800 on SAT 1 math, but she never had any intention of studying anything but humanities in college.
    I actually think this is the cause of some of the issues people/parents have. Mathematicians will separate "arithmetic" from "mathematics". Arithmetic consists of basic number operations and even basic algebra operations. Mathematics requires at least some level of proofs and a greater degree of complexity. So a lot of parents will say "oh Johnny is great at math", when in reality Johnny is great at arithmetic, but there is no guarantee at all that he will be great when he gets to the higher level material.
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  • Much2learnMuch2learn 4610 replies168 threads Senior Member
    ^^^^ I think that in some cases, our K-8 teachers are part of the problem with girls and math. Many of these teachers are women who were not good at math.

    When a girl says she is not good at math some of them may be too quick to say that they were not good at math either. That is discouraging. Maybe if the teacher told her she was better at math than she realizes, and encouraged her she would be more likely to become good at math.
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  • DrGoogleDrGoogle 11022 replies24 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2014
    Not all math requires proofs and even if it does, the college is supposed to teach them. I know at D2's college, the school taught her how to do proof. She did well, no problem there. So I'm not sure if D1 wouldn't do well, but I think maybe she didn't understand fully Algebra 2 and according to D2's math teacher, he told us that Algebra 2 is the basis for Calc BC. When I heard it, I finally understood what's wrong with D1's math ability. I kind of felt bad, not because she didn't go into STEM, but the learned helplessness for the math subject may have prevented D1 from making proper decision regarding career choices. I want her to be able pick what she really wants to do and not by avoidance, i.e. she was not good at this subject so she didn't think about going into that major which requires some level of math.

    EDIT to add, I very much agree with Much2learn, D1's Algebra 2 teacher's major in college was not math, she was political science or history major, and that's the problem. She didn't understand the subject well enough to explain to her students. How did she expect the students to do well?
    edited June 2014
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  • wis75wis75 14393 replies65 threads Senior Member
    The comment about a critical mass of women in a field is so true.

    I saw so many changes in my medical career that were the result of changes needed in hospitals because of increased numbers of women physicians. Unfortunately the pioneering work I had to do to pave the way for others didn't help my career- instead of moving we stayed for in town H's career and I missed out on seeing many younger women changing the scene. I could present pages of anecdotes. When the nearly 50% women in medical schools have hit private practice for a few more years and the oldest male physicians with attitude problems are finally gone... Although some women are just as bad personality wise as some men and many men, especially those used to women peers, took our presence for granted.

    Once you have that critical mass many more interested women will feel more comfortable.

    The opposite- men in traditionally female fields is not a direct opposite. I wonder what the stats are for male/female nurses and other professions in rising to the upper echelons. It certainly is different for a male nurse to be assumed to be the doctor and a female physician to be a nurse (real life anecdotes from 20 some years ago for me) by a patient.
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  • sylvan8798sylvan8798 6951 replies143 threads Senior Member
    DrGoogle wrote:
    Not all math requires proofs and even if it does, the college is supposed to teach them.
    But isn't that the point? The college can teach something, but it doesn't mean that the student will become adept at it. I have an MA in mathematics. I never got adept at doing proofs. I can follow them, but when it comes to actually DOING them, I flounder quickly. I focused on applied math, which is more interesting to me and where I can more easily see what route to take.
    I know at D2's college, the school taught her how to do proof. She did well, no problem there. So I'm not sure if D1 wouldn't do well, but I think maybe she didn't understand fully Algebra 2 and according to D2's math teacher, he told us that Algebra 2 is the basis for Calc BC. When I heard it, I finally understood what's wrong with D1's math ability. I kind of felt bad, not because she didn't go into STEM, but the learned helplessness for the math subject may have prevented D1 from making proper decision regarding career choices. I want her to be able pick what she really wants to do and not by avoidance, i.e. she was not good at this subject so she didn't think about going into that major which requires some level of math.

    EDIT to add, I very much agree with Much2learn, D1's Algebra 2 teacher's major in college was not math, she was political science or history major, and that's the problem. She didn't understand the subject well enough to explain to her students. How did she expect the students to do well?
    It's ridiculous to me that, despite having progressed well beyond Algebra 2, you end up blaming your D's issues on her Algebra 2 teacher. Any deficit she had from Algebra 2 should have been well addressed somewhere in the courses AFTER that.
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  • 3girls3cats3girls3cats 1998 replies6 threads Senior Member
    I've read through this thread since I posted and I think many of you have made great points along the way. At the same time, I see a certain myopia. There's a sense that well, I didn't have this obstacle or I always knew my kid was great at math and would become an engineer or why should we push all girls into STEM fields.

    I'm with much2learn who wrote:
    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.

    Whether a girl or boy decides to enter a humanities-based field in the end isn't the issue. Look at the greater trends! As a general matter, girls start out outpacing boys in all subjects and by middle school, boys start outpacing girls in math. Worse yet, there's a disproportionate sense among girls that they "can't do math." The drop out rate in high level math classes is much higher for girls than for boys. Do all girls need to be in high level math classes? No, of course not. Echoing much2learn again, so many more of them could succeed at it if they chose. And once they choose that, there are fields of interest that open up to them.

    A good place to start using the message of this ad is to look carefully at the messages we give our children when they stumble in math at that first pre-algebra class. Having difficulty isn't the same as being unable to master a skill. Before dropping the class, encourage the girls or boys to work at the skill, ask for the help they need to get past the frustration, practice at it, and see if they progress. What I'm told by educators is that boys do this, girls tend not to stick with the class. Again, let me be clear that I'm not encouraging anyone to enroll in a class or stay in a class that's very clearly a bad fit. Remember that most kids have to test into an advanced class so it's not as if we're insisting on putting every girl or every boy into the group. What I am saying is that it may not be so apparent early on whether the class is manageable.
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  • collegealum314collegealum314 6683 replies85 threads Senior Member
    EDIT to add, I very much agree with Much2learn, D1's Algebra 2 teacher's major in college was not math, she was political science or history major, and that's the problem. She didn't understand the subject well enough to explain to her students. How did she expect the students to do well?

    I agree, but I don't see how this disproportionately affects girls.
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  • collegealum314collegealum314 6683 replies85 threads Senior Member
    I went to a school that did everything they could to encourage girls to go into STEM areas. it was a math/science school. Many of them did go into STEM, even engineering.

    One thing I noticed, though, was that girls were a lot more practical and less romantic about their careers. This is one reason why girls who were very capable in math ended up in other fields which were more lucrative and which have a better lifestyle. This is why many of them become doctors.

    Another thing is that because they were less romantic about careers in which the lifestyle is not very good (high number of hours, low pay, hard to secure a position), they didn't work as hard at math because they didn't expect to be mathematicians. Many were on the math team but didn't take it as seriously. Later on, many of the boys became practical too in college and majored in engineering, but then could apply those math/science skills to engineering.

    I suppose you can market math/science differently to girls (eg., say that you can get a high paying Wall Street job with a math degree,); however, people who who truly admire a field itself and admire the best practicioners are going to be work harder than people who are doing something because it will lead to something else.
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  • mamalionmamalion 735 replies26 threads Member
    Marketing is such a funny word for what should be a cultural shift to include women in U.S. STEM. There are cultures where it is not so unusual for women to be, say programmers or mathematicians. A friend from south asian once said that math was a good field for women, clean, not requiring lots of socializing, and often leading to teaching. Where schools are single sex, women mathematicians are needed.

    Wikipedia on Iroan
    "Iran is an example of a country that has made considerable advances through education and training, despite international sanctions in almost all aspects of research during the past 30 years. Iran's university population swelled from 100,000 in 1979 to 2 million in 2006. 70% of its science and engineering students are women.[1] Iran's scientific progress is reported to be the fastest in the world.[2][3][4]"

    Here is an example with lots of charts that demonstrate different rates of women's participation in cs.

    http://homepages.inf.ed.ac.uk/vgalpin1/ps/Gal02a.pdf

    "There are some countries and courses where women’s participation is below 10%, some with participation above 40%, and a few where women are in the majority."

    Given the range of numbers, which grantedly may reflect different cultural values and uses for STEM, there is nothing inherent in defining STEM as masculine.
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  • mathmommathmom 33220 replies163 threads Senior Member
    Most doctors I know would not say that medicine is a job with good hours and low stress. I think there are a lot of other math heavy professions that would be much less stressful - actuaries, accountants, most engineering, a lot of computer programming. And others that would be more lucrative like investment banking.

    I think women become doctors because they are romantic, and are socialized to feel they should be in the helping professions.

    I'm pretty sure I became an architect out of overly romantic ideas about what it would be like day to day!
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