Girls in Science


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Girls-Doing-Science1.jpg

Our generation is experiencing a movement of pushing girls towards the areas of math and science rather than the humanities. This is because traditionally, boys were known to be better at math and science and girls were better at things like writing. Educators are under the impression that girls shy away from math and sciences because we think that they should be left to the boys. But as someone who wishes she were a math/science person, I feel the opposite. It's been made common knowledge that people like engineers and doctors are going to be able to get a higher paying and more promising job after college. Who wouldn't want that? If I were good at math and science I would have no problem pursuing a career in engineering. I wouldn't shy away from it because it might be more challenging: if it were something I knew I enjoyed and that I was good at, I would go for it. I don't think there is any shame in a girl being an engineer or something of the like. I actually think that girls get a lot of extra respect for pursuing careers in math and the sciences and that they should be proud to say that's what they're studying. I'm certainly jealous of them. A career in communications is less promised than a career in engineering, and although I am confident that Penn State will help me find a well-paying and well-fitting job for me, I am still nervous for life after college. What if I find myself starting off with a job where I don't even apply any of my skills I learned in the 4 years of college? What if I don't find a job at all? There are infinite articles and journals about our economy that say I won't. A career in math and science would make my future a little more promising, and this is why I don't think young girls are ashamed or embarrassed to pursue these careers. These girls aren't seen by their peers as nerdy; they are admired and envied.

My idea for this blog post came from this article:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-trouble-with-barbie-science

7 Comments

You are absolutely right! I have a friend who is a engineer major and she already had two internships. She has a 3.5 g.p.a and when she went to the career fair this pass week she got 7 interviews lined up! I am also a communication major but i have decided to double major in Crime, Law & Justice with a minor in Sociology. (It is really easy to double major with a communication major). And i want to go to law school to study media law. But if I was good in math and science than I would go for it but that simply is not my passion. Do what you love and if you work hard,get good grades and have a good personality I think you will do just find a make it where ever you want to go.

"traditionally, boys were known to be better at math and science and girls were better at things like writing. " yeah, I have the same feeling, in my hometown, people think that girl should not study science. But, actually, most of my female friends can do better in science than boys can. Maybe this kind of thinking can be changed not long after, because more and more female scientists, biologists etc, are walking in to people's sights.
" These girls aren't seen by their peers as nerdy; they are admired and envied." I think you can achieve your goal. Good Luck.

I Agree with you 100%. When I was in junior high school I loved math and science. I actually wanted to be a math professor. However, when I went to high school that changed and math became difficult and I strayed more towards History and English. I don't think girls shy away from math and science because we think boys should pursue it, but like you there are just certain things people aren't good at. So you and I are in the same boat ! :-(

In high school, my major ended up being Law & Society, which is what I think I will pursue at Penn State (Criminology). My school had a vast amount of majors and I did see the pattern that you mentioned. There were not many girls in majors such as Architecture, Engineering, Physics, Astronomy etc. I never really thought much of it until I read this blog post.

You stated that our generation is trying to push females towards math and science. In what ways are we trying to do this? I think this is a positive thing. Do you think in the near future females will be required to take certain courses that concentrate on math and science?

It's natural to fear not being able to start a career after college but I don't think you should feel so down about your major choice. Have you ever heard of the saying "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard." In your eyes, women who excel at math and science have talent, but If you work hard, you'll be able to achieve just as much. Remember that everyone is different and jobs are offered over a wide range depending on ones qualifications and on your interests. If communications is what interests you, stick with it !

As a psychology major, I found this to be a really interesting post.

This is the idea of figuring out between causation and reverse causation. Does the fact that not many females study science/math cause the perception that males are better at science/math than females, OR does the perception that males are better at science/math than females cause females to not pursue careers/degrees in science/math.

In psychology, there is a theory called Self Fulfilling Prophecy. Applying this theory, if teachers go into the classroom expecting males to be better at the sciences, this will subconsciously effect the way that they teach and will actually impact the performance of males over females in regards to learning the sciences. If the teacher believes males are better at the sciences, in their class, the males will be better at the sciences because this belief will impact their teaching, even if they are not aware that they hold this belief.

This leads to the interesting idea that while teachers believe they are pushing females into the sciences, they may unintentionally be driving them away from the sciences due to these unintentional Self Fulfilling prophecies.

I do agree that some people just happen to be blessed into being math/science people, once again based on the psychological principal of brain hemisphere dominance where people who are left hemisphere dominant are gifted in the sciences and math.

On a personal level, I happen to know a lot of female engineers and they all say that people respect them and almost envy their dedication to becoming engineers, but are still shocked that females are in engineering. The other cool thing is that at Penn State, we have not only one, but two different organizations dedicated just to females in engineering. These organizations, SWE and WEP, both exist to encourage women to major in engineering and offer support for the women already within engineering majors, as well as helping with networking. I don't know of many liberal arts majors that have organizations just for female majors, and none as extensive as engineering.

With that said, it all comes down to doing what you love. Left hemisphere dominant people who were raised with teachers who believed in them are destined to major in math/science. I (and probably you) are right brained and proud to call NOT science/math our major and will be a lot happier in the future. But I don't think that females are embarassed to pursue science degrees at all, I actually think they're proud. As they should be!

Sorry this was so long!

Hey Abigail! I found this post very relatable, as I wish I was better at science...I'm hoping this class will help me gain more excitement towards science and not shy away from it. But I'm wondering if some people are just "doomed" to dislike more logical type work, or is it the way it's presented in class? I remember high school science being very dry with little room for interpretation, whereas my English classes were filled with creative writing assignments. Perhaps if there were more hands-on activities introduced in classroom science, so many girls wouldn't veer towards less well paying fields.

I agree with you 100% I think everything is all about presentation. The way you are introduced to something or the way ideas are presented to you can greatly impact your interest in a specific topic as well as your understanding of it. Like you, my English class as a senior year in high school was Drama. Drama was a performance-based class, so we didn't really spend our time writing papers. We learned about Shakespeare, the history of performing, literature, body language and the elements that are truly essential to performing itself. I personally found that to be more interesting that learning about grammar and composition. I also felt the same way about math as you did science. In math you were either right or wrong, so there was little room for interpretation there.

You mentioned hands-on activities in classroom science. What do you mean by that? In many schools there are science labs that relate directly to the science course that those students take for the year. Those could be considered "hands-on," but I definitely agree in the sense that those weren't exactly the most interesting either. What specific hands-on activities do you think could be introduced into science classrooms to create a more interesting learning environment for females? Do you think females should be subject only to areas of science that relate directly to them, like the female reproductive system?

A few people asked how girls in our generation are being pushed towards the field of science. I might feel like this more than the average person because I went to all-girls school for thirteen years. They were always really encouraging the students who were talented at math or science and pushing us towards engineering events at CMU like robotics competitions and such. Especially at a liberal arts school where English had been emphasized for so long, I think they felt like they had something to make up for. As for the last comment, I think that if teachers made science classes more relatable to our everyday lives then maybe students like me would be more interested. I think that's something we do in this class we're in right now -- talk about issues that are relevant. Cells and biology don't interest me, but if it relates to my life then it does. Maybe talking about current events could help students to like science more than they normally would. And no, I don't think females should take different science classes than males or focus on different areas. I just think that in general if science classes were more relevant to our lives then we might be more interested. What does everyone else think?

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