Motivating girls to do science...

Mr. W.Y. Chan wahchan at
Wed Mar 27 05:17:36 EST 1996

Anne Carpenter (anne at wrote:
: One of the major things I have had to overcome as a college woman 
: choosing biology as a career is the lack of self-confidence 
: about my academic ability (particularly in science).  A book I 
: read that had a huge impact on me and helped me to understand some of my 
: fears was "Smart girls, gifted women."  I think it was written by Dr. 
: Barbara Kerr.  She was in a pilot program many years ago that 
: gave bright young students, boys and girls, special classes.  In short, 
: she became a psychologist, and upon seeing most of her classmates years 
: later at a reunion, she found as expected that many students had gone on 
: to outstanding careers in business,medicine, law, science, etc. 

:  What was 
: remarkable however is that most of these successful students were the men 
: in the class, and that most of the women found themselves in unfulfilling 
: careers.  The author does not place the blame on unfair hiring practices 
: or anything like that - rather, she conducts a survey of these women and 
: finds that many of the women had low self-confidence in their academic 
: ability.  Many of them even commented that they always kind of wondered 
: if maybe they had been put in the class by mistake.  The women were often 
: very scared of failure...they didn't go to graduate school because they 
: were worried they couldn't cut it.  They accepted jobs as secretaries 
: because they knew they could do that sort of a job.  They didn't want to 
: disappoint people so they "underacheived" and only tried things they knew 
: they could succeed at.  

: I wonder where this kind of low self-confidence comes from...I have 
: really noticed it in my own life.  In my personal experience, I wonder if 
: women are more likely to be embarassed and shy about their academic 
: success whereas men are more likely to be proud, or even arrogant.  What 
: causes this difference?  I have heard it said in intro Psychology courses 
: that women are more likely to attribute success in academics 
: (particularly science) to luck, and that men are more likely to attribute 
: success to their high ability.  Where do we women get these unhealthy 
: attitudes?

: Someone quoted earlier a study that showed that the majority of men see 
: themselves as above average while the most women do not think as highly 
: of themselves.  Doesn't it makes sense that this kind of thinking would 
: affect women when they are deciding what major to choose?  The sciences 
: are traditionally seen as more difficult than humanities...and at many 
: schools this is true.  It seems likely that more women than men are 
: intimidated by the difficulty of a science curriculum.

: So, to get to the point   of this rather long post, I think one of the main 
: problems in getting girls of any age motivated and interested in science 
: is that girls are more intimidated by science.  How can this problem be 
: solved?  One way that others have mentioned is to make science beautiful 
: and interesting and relevant.  If girls are shown more about what science 
: is really like, they are less likely to be scared of it.  Another 
: solution would be to encourage girls from a young age about their 
: academic ability.  If they have more confidence in themselves 
: academically, they are more likely to choose a field of study 
: traditionally seen as difficult.  The question is, How do you increase 
: girls' self-confidence?  

: I've found this thread extremely interesting...keep posting!

No comment, I get to annoy people again if I say anything. If I said what
you had said above I would be at the recieving end of a load full of hate 
mails. If you like you can email me and ask me politely about my opinion
to this subject.


: Anne Carpenter
: Sophomore, Purdue University

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