Now the question is how do we fix it?
Modesty and Misogyny
Researchers determined this through another test wherein the children were offered two games: one for “really, really smart” kids and one for kids who “try really, really hard.” While both boys and girls were equally drawn to the game for kids who “try hard,” girls seemed to be disinterested in the game for kids who are “smart.”
The scientists attributed this difference to two factors. The first was the aforementioned internalized stereotypes about the male nature of brilliance, and the second was a higher cultural value placed on modesty for women (the pressure for women to self-praise as little as possible).
A big leap? Not so much.
Perhaps it’s a leap, but I’m going to take it—replace “game for smart children” with “STEM” and you have your answer as to why women have been traditionally underrepresented in those fields. If at age six, girls already think that endeavors that require innate “smarts” aren’t for them, of course they tend to shy away from careers in fields that have a similar reputation years later.
Something to think about
Maybe you’re thinking that six or seven years old is too young to have a lasting impact on the rest of their lives, but here’s something to consider:
I was talking with a close friend of mine recently and she described to me an exercise in which she and her friends had participated. They were asked to pick the three words that best described themselves.
The friend told me that she was shocked when, upon picking “intelligent” as one of her descriptors, all of the other women expressed disbelief. To be clear, they did not disagree with her (she is undeniably brilliant)—they were in disbelief that a woman would describe herself as such.
“But, I am smart. I’m really smart,” she told them. “You guys wouldn’t call yourselves smart?” she asked them.