2017-08-10 / Editorial

Girls really are ‘really, really smart’

My Thoughts
By Krista Tacey-Cater

Not long ago I came across a study that indicates young girls are “less likely than boys to say that their own gender is ‘really, really smart,’ and less likely to opt into a game described as being for ‘super smart kids.’”

The study which appeared in “Science” included 400 children of which 96 were asked questions about “brilliance and gender.” They were, for example, told a story about a person who was “really, really smart” and then asked to pick between photos of two men and two women to indicate who the story was about.

Five-year-old boys selected a member of their own gender 71% of the time and 69% of girls at the same age chose their own gender. A total of 65% of six-year-old boys selected their own gender and 48% of six-year old girls chose their own gender. Seven-year-old boys chose their gender 68% of the time and seven-year old girls chose a female 54% of the time.

These results are concerning to me for a few reasons. My first cause of concern is how young these girls are to already feel women are inferior to men intellectually.

Thinking about children who are between the ages of five and seven, generally when adults meet a child for the first time, there are a few common questions and comments made. These range from how old are you, what grade are you in and what do you want to be when you grow up. There are generally statements about how pretty a girl’s clothing or hair is and how strong and athletic a boy is.

I’m not a scientist, and that’s not because I’m a girl, but as adults when we address girls and comment only on how they look, that doesn’t send a message that knowledge and advancing through school is important.

What I’m not advocating for is less confident boys, but more confident girls. Both boys and girls should be encouraged, as advancement of both genders is important to society.

I’m guilty, too, of telling a young girl I like her shoes or hair. As someone who thinks of herself as a capable female, and whose husband calls her an “independent woman” probably more based on stubbornness than anything else, I realized I’m part of the problem as well. That got me thinking about other ways to strike up conversation with a young girl upon first meeting her. Maybe instead of saying, “Oh, what a pretty girl you are,” I could take the emphasis off of her external appearance. I could ask about her interests and encourage her to pursue those passions.

My second concern is that girls at the age of five to seven are already buying into gender stereotypes. It’s no secret that females are significantly outnumbered in the STEM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) career fields. These fields are generally viewed as the “smart” fields and without many female role models to look up to in those fields it doesn’t surprise me that girls don’t see themselves in those roles as adults. For example, tech-related jobs at Google are held 80% by male employees and 20% by female employees.

Here in Roscommon County were five members of the Houghton Lake High School Robotics Team, three of which were females. On Roscommon High School’s robotics team called the Roscobots there was one girl on the team and on Charlton Heston Academy’s team five of the eight members were girls.

I feel like the wheels are already in motion to attract more females into these fields as schools and companies are actively pushing female student to engage in the STEM fields. Let’s continue to encourage our girls in the classroom, on the field and in life to help bolster their opinion on their own gender’s intellectual capabilities. I believe that no matter the child’s gender, a good dose of encouragement can’t hurt.

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