Encouraging girls in math and science

<p>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?</p>

<p><a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP3cyRRAfX0"&gt;http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP3cyRRAfX0&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>My sister was also good at math, but she didn’t like it. So she became a teacher.</p>

<p>I met my future husband in engineering grad school. :)</p>

<p>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!</p>

<p>A local girl scout troop won our statewide engineering competition. The had two female engineer mentors.</p>

<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>

<p>

</p>

<p>A math teacher?</p>

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

<p>

</p>

<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>