By Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki
Even when girls and boys demonstrate similar actual competence levels in math, during the early school years, boys are more confident about their math skills. Already by kindergarten, boys have more interest in pursuing math learning than do girls.
STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) related jobs are some of the best jobs out there, and increasingly important in our technology-driven economy. But the percentage of women in many STEM jobs remains very low. Only about 1/4 of STEM jobs in the U.S. are filled by women. Women’s share of computer jobs has actually been falling in recent years. At present, only 18% of U.S. computer science majors are women.
According to the Office of Science and Technology Policy, women in STEM professions earn 33% more than those in other fields.
It’s generally understood that by school age, girls receive less encouragement in math and science pursuits than do boys, from both parents and teachers. What’s interesting is that it now seems this bias starts from a very early age, less than the age of 2 years!
In a study entitled “Gender Biases in Early Number Exposure to Preschool-Aged Children”, published in 2011 in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology, researchers at the University of Delaware found that mothers spent fully twice as much time talking to their sons about numbers and numeric concepts as they did with their daughters! The average age of the children in the study was only 22 months, for both the boys and the girls.
Here’s a related set of resources on Curriki – Math for Girls. This link includes a series of videos featuring women working in mathematics and presenting pieces of math that excited them when they were in middle and high school.
Help girls realize that math and sciences education is not just for the boys. Even if they don’t end up pursuing STEM careers, there is a lot of useful and interesting knowledge to be gained in studying math, science and engineering topics. The use of math in traditionally non-STEM careers, such as finance and marketing, is only increasing. And maybe they are better at math than they think they are!
You’ll also find other resources at this link including profiles of women in Math, and in STEM careers in general.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_11rwb4vEc#t=40 – Girls in STEM: A New Generation of Women in Science