Encouraging girls in math and science

<p>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. </p>

<p>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. </p>

<p>Someone’s gonna have to dumb this down for me because I’m just not getting the message. Anyone in marketing? </p>

<p>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. </p>

<p>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: <a href=“Percentage of Bachelor's degrees conferred to women, by major (1970-2012) | Dr. Randal S. Olson”>Percentage of Bachelor's degrees conferred to women, by major (1970-2012) | Dr. Randal S. Olson</a></p>

<p>@Vladenschlutte “Someone’s gonna have to dumb this down for me… .” </p>

<p>Lol. </p>

<p>Okay, the first vignette the parent says the girl is pretty, when she is getting into the rocks they say “get out of there”, when she seems interested in sea creatures they tell her to put it down, when she in interested in planets they tell her she is too going too far, when she is interested in building a rocket they tell her not to hurt herself and tell her to let her brother put in the screw. </p>

<p>None of those comments is inappropriate individually, and the parents are well meaning. However, the impact of those types of comments in aggregate is that she is encouraged to be “pretty” and discouraged from being curious about nature and building things. </p>

<p>The point is that, without even realizing it, people can be guide a child toward one thing and away from others. The point is to raise adults awareness of the types of messages they send to girls. </p>

<p>I suspect that most of the people who post on cc are probably much more aware of this type of thing in general than the average person in the population would be. Even if they do not thing about it consciously. </p>

<p>Clearly these things happen. At least they do in our family. </p>

<p>Things relatives have said about our daughters.

  1. Why do the girls swim and play water polo all year? Isn’t that much sports bad for girls?
  2. Me: "D1 has been accepted to Columbia, Berkeley, Penn, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Michigan, Virginia, and UCLA. After a lot of consideration and visits, she has decided to attend Penn as a CS major.
    Response:“Are you sure she is ready for a 4 year school? Did you think about sending her to community college?”
  3. Facebook post that D1 was one of about 3,500 students in the country who have been invited to be US Presidential Scholar candidates. I get 2 likes. Facebook post of D1 dressed up for prom gets about 100 likes.
  4. I tell the family that D1 applied and was accepted to an Electrical Engineering and CS summer program at MIT last summer (about a 10% acceptance rate).
    Response: Why would she want to do that? Wouldn’t she rather stay home with her friends?</p>

<p>Maybe it is just my nutty family, idk. However, I do not think that they would have the same responses if she were a boy. They don’t mean to intentionally discouraging, but the message is there.</p>

<p>@momofthreeboys " it’s a mighty small target audience and I really can’t figure out who “they’ are.” </p>

<p>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. </p>

<p>In reality I don’t know how big it is, I just know that I see it frequently. </p>

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<p>A math teacher?</p>

<p>^No, special ed. She’s amazing. </p>

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<p>Biological sciences are majority female these days. Chemistry is about even. But other sciences and engineering are heavily male.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>“Well I disagree with this ad…”</p>

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

<p>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.</p>

<p>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. </p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>In the end, it’s an Ad for Verizon who wants to sell their products and look good to the public lol.</p>

<p>@turtletime “The goal should be raising confident girls who can do anything they want.”</p>

<p>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. </p>

<p>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. </p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>Great ad. Gentle enough to not antagonize the parents who subtly discourage their daughters but direct enough with specific scenarios. </p>

<p>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).</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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). </p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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).</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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. </p>

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<p>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. </p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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. </p>

<p>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. </p>

<p>@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. </p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>