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(41,739 posts)
Wed Jun 10, 2015, 10:26 AM Jun 2015

Girls Underestimate Their STEM Aptitude, Boys Overestimate

I grew up in a house with two engineer parents — a challenge for an eventual English major. Too much dinnertime discussion of programming languages or acronym-heavy projects either gave me vertigo or made me fall asleep in my mashed potatoes, so I tried to make sure our conversations didn't include much work talk. But my mother and father worked at the same company (and still do), so their shared experiences would often come up. Even as I tried to tune out, it was easy to notice that my dad's relationship to his workplace was much different from my mom's. She frequently spoke of being the only woman in large meetings or on business trips, and while she's far from a social-justice warrior, she would occasionally talk about sexism in the industry. A study from Florida State University may explain why my mother is such a rarity as a female engineer, even as efforts to get women more involved in math- and science-related fields have gone on for decades.

The documentary Code: Debugging the Gender Gap reports that less than 20 percent of computer-science jobs in the United States are held by women. While the film holds up hostile work environments and even sexual harassment as reasons why women are reluctant to enter the field, the study found that 12th-grade girls are also inclined to underestimate their abilities in science and math. Boys, meanwhile, overestimate them.

"Our results indicate the potential for more women to move into [physics, engineering, mathematics, and computer science] if they perceive their mathematics ability as strong, and open to growth," said Lara Perez-Felkner, co-author of the study.

The true value of stereotypes can often be difficult to ascertain, because so many stereotypes are self-fulfilling. Girls, raised on the idea that they're better suited for the humanities and that boys are more inclined toward hard sciences, often take the path that societal norms suggest to them. With something like math and science skills, it can be hard to separate how much of the gender gap is caused by socialized behaviors, and how much of it (if any) is caused by natural, biological difference. Math takes practice, and those who feel less encouraged to practice probably won't do so, even if their innate propensity for math wizardry is high. At the same time, boys with a knack for writing, music, or the visual arts may be stuck toiling away in STEM classes without realizing where their true potential lies.

Girls Underestimate Their STEM Aptitude, Boys Overestimate (Original Post) ismnotwasm Jun 2015 OP
We ran a STEM program for High School Students redstatebluegirl Jun 2015 #1
Oh my God, what excellent news! ismnotwasm Jun 2015 #2
I was REALLY surprised! redstatebluegirl Jun 2015 #7
Some of the very best students in my daughter's exboyfil Jun 2015 #3
Good for your daughter ismnotwasm Jun 2015 #4
Not even a little surprised marym625 Jun 2015 #5
Message auto-removed Name removed Jun 2015 #6
My daughter is a coming senior in high school wilsonbooks Jun 2015 #8
Very cool ismnotwasm Jun 2015 #9
My daughter felt this way gollygee Jun 2015 #10


(12,243 posts)
1. We ran a STEM program for High School Students
Wed Jun 10, 2015, 10:55 AM
Jun 2015

this past week and 72 percent of the applicants were female. We chose 30 kids and 22 of them were female. The girls were running around yelling girl power . Loved it! Maybe things are changing a bit. The girls we chose were sharp and verbal! They didn't mind speaking up when they wanted to. It was refreshing. The first year we did this is was 80 percent male.


(12,243 posts)
7. I was REALLY surprised!
Wed Jun 10, 2015, 02:03 PM
Jun 2015

I loved it, not to mention over half were minority students, another first for us after 5 years running this particular program.


(17,803 posts)
3. Some of the very best students in my daughter's
Wed Jun 10, 2015, 11:07 AM
Jun 2015

mechanical engineering program are the top students. You don't seem to have very many average women. On the other hand a large number of average men.

In general my daughters' public school system has been very supportive of STEM careers. I am not sure I see the bias at the school system. My daughters have not seen it.

At Iowa State of course when my daughter registered for her first semester she had a counselor try to convince her to not take Sophomore design her first semester. The reason was that their would be a bunch of older men in the class, and the counselor was worried that my daughter would not be able to handle it. Needless to say when she told me I was shocked. My daughter went on to get an A in the class and achieve Dean's List both semesters of her freshman year taking sophomore and junior engineering classes.

By the way the counselor was a woman.


(41,739 posts)
4. Good for your daughter
Wed Jun 10, 2015, 11:17 AM
Jun 2015

I bet you are proud of her. Perhaps the woman counseler had either biases of her own or prior experiences with other female students.

A lot of work has been done to eradicate gender biases, so I find your story very encouraging.

Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)


(972 posts)
8. My daughter is a coming senior in high school
Wed Jun 10, 2015, 04:35 PM
Jun 2015

and excels in all areas. She will be an engineering major and is being solicited by all the top programs. Most Universities are seeking females to balance their STEM programs.

This is a very good program designed to help high achieving/ low income students gain entry and full scholarships to the nations top schools:



(22,336 posts)
10. My daughter felt this way
Thu Jun 11, 2015, 07:13 AM
Jun 2015

She kept thinking she was bad at math but she ended up testing into a regional AT math group. I don't know why she ever thought she was bad at math.

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