Research being conducted over the past few years has seen that, in many cases, the gender gap in math and science starts in kindergarten. The “gender gap” is the belief that some academic areas are more suited to boys and some are more suited to girls, namely math and sciences for boys, humanities for girls.
Although this has been an issue for generations, there has been little improvement in erasing the gender gap. There is a big push to get girls more involved in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics), yet the actual execution is falling short. Research has seen that many elementary schools and teachers have been, perhaps not deliberately, underestimating girls in math and science. With that sort of foundation it is no wonder that the percentage of females in STEM-jobs is 24%.
According to one report, the gender gap is worse with families and schools in high socio-economic societies, though there are no conclusive reasons as to why. However, in the current media and pop culture age, girls are set apart from boys in everything from toothbrushes to notebooks. Expectation are set higher for boy students especially in science and math while a Forever 21 t-shirt says “Allergic to Algebra.”
In the end, the real issue isn’t a cognitive impairment; it is a lack of confidence. According to Professor Lara Perez-Felkner of the College of Education, girls believe they are not as capable to understand and solve math and science equations as their male classmates. This has no scientific grounding, because when math and science test scores were compared by gender there was no notable difference. Many female students truly believe that they are less suited for STEM subjects than their male classmates. This mindset makes it harder for them to perform well in STEM subjects if they have already been told that they cannot do so. They then do not continue in STEM subjects in high school and college and the gender gap continues to grow.
There are many organizations that work to close this gender gap: Girls Who Code is an online network that connects girls across the country with an interest in computer science; Girlstart’s mission is to increase girls’ interest and engagement in STEM through innovative, nationally-recognized informal STEM education programs; Go Science Girls is an online community that is working to promote girls in STEM at a young age.
Promoting at a young age is vital. Since the gender gap can start well before elementary school, opening girls’ eyes and minds to STEM can never start too early. Children’s media and early education programs can have a positive influence on young girls. For instance, Doc McStuffins has put a 6 year-old female doctor on Disney Jr. Math Genie’s abacus program teaches girls as young as 3 how they can solve problems and close the gender gap in math.
There is no time to wait. For the sake of your future, the future of your daughters, nieces, cousins and granddaughters, close the gender gap now.