Discrimination against girls in STEM may start sooner than we thought


Women are underrepresented in the world of Math and Science. This a fact that we have grown too used to hearing. Many point to childhood as the critical time in which girls begin to feel that they are not supposed to like math and science yet we still find ourselves asking why that is. Is it parents, school, toy manufacturers?

A new study tries to better answer our questions. Early elementary school teachers, the researchers say, may hold the key to our questions. More specifically, the biases these teachers hold may be causing the problems. Early experiences with their teachers influence the courses that students choose later in their educational careers, thus affecting the jobs they pursue and the wages they earn. Reversing these biases could help to increase the number of women entering STEM fields, such as computer science and engineering.

Previous studies have shown that college professors and even employers will discriminate against women in STEM environments, but now it appears that this discrimination begins, in some form, much earlier. This new study looked at girls and boys over the course of their school careers from sixth grade through high school. Exams were given to the students, one to be graded by a teacher they knew and one to be graded by a stranger. The girls outscored the boys in math when graded anonymously but not when graded by a teacher, leading the researchers to conclude that the teachers overestimated the boys’ abilities and underestimated the girls’ abilities. The boys who had been encouraged by their teachers continued to do well in math in high school. The girls who had been discouraged did not continue on to take advanced math courses.

This study reminds us that we need to be aware of our biases and how they affect those we may have influence over. SheGives is proud to work with organizations such as Science Club for Girls and Engineering is Elementary that work to engage girls and minorities in STEM and foster their passions for math and science. Because of these amazing organizations encouraging girls everyday, we may be able to make these biases history. You can read the full study online here.

SheGives Black Circle Logo[2]

SheGives connects committed, inquisitive, engaged donors with a slate of diligenced nonprofits in the Greater Boston area. We provide members with relevant data about the nonprofits in our portfolio and an opportunity to meet directly with our nonprofits’ Executive Directors and senior staff in small settings that promote in-depth q&a’s and, ultimately, informed giving. Giving is personally driven, but because we give side-by-side our collective impact is greater. See a list of the vetted nonprofits selected for our slate here.

Posted in News, SheGives Slate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *