Why girls waste their genius
The belief that men should be devoted to the fields of engineering, sciences, and technologies, and women to the fields of humanities, seems to stand true in ASFM, with girls having a much lower participation in STEM courses.
AP Calculus teacher Mr. Gerber expressed that he repeatedly makes a point of going to girls who have above-average grades in Algebra or Pre-Calc and are choosing not to pursue advanced math classes. “I say: ‘Are you sure this is what you want to do? Because you are closing a door,’ and they almost always say: ‘Yeah, I’m more interested in humanities.’”
“I think that is a really, really sad statistic, I would have liked to see it change to a more balanced ratio,” Ms. Walsh commented. “Girls don’t seem to get into the class unless they are completely sure that they will do well in that class she added “they seem to lack that extra little bit of confidence to say ‘I’ll give it a shot.’”
Ms. Cannon noted that many girls feel that programming is just for boys and gamers, even though it is scientifically proven that girls are better programmers due to their attention to detail.
Most girls have the same opportunities as boys in taking advanced classes of any area. Discrimination and sexism are often believed to be the obstacles to equality in STEM fields around the world, but the evident effort in ASFM to encourage girls to join these classes seems to prove otherwise.
But then, why is there such a male dominance in advanced STEM classes?
“I know that the perception is that girls should be good at arts, music, and dancing; and guys should be good at math or engineering,” AP Calculus teacher Jim Gerber explained. 11th grader and top Pre-AP Calculus student Paola Montemayor agreed, stating that the mentality of many young women is that they “won’t work anyways.”
Another factor, according to Ms. Bertha Cannon, is that girls accustomed to being honor roll students often avoid more challenging courses because they fear being perceived as unintelligent. AP Chemistry teacher Ms. Walsh added that “maybe girls are more perfectionists, or they aren’t willing to risk [their average].”
Beyond these societal limitations, the lack of women in STEM fields might be the result of a lack of interest in these topics in general. Studies, such as one from the American Psychological Association,* have shown that “men prefer working with things and women prefer working with people.”
There is no doubt that STEM classes in ASFM highly lack women’s presence; and there are many reasons—both scientific and societal—. However, the fear of failure or of not being approved should not halt any women from an opportunity to learn and challenge themselves in men-dominated careers.
*American Psychological Association study: http://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fa0017364