When I read the summary of this study about the early emergence of gender stereotypes in my daily news digest, I took a screenshot and sent it to my husband. I entered the caption, “Our daughter will not fall into this bucket.” He wholeheartedly agreed, and a political state of the world dialogue ensued; but rather than going down that rabbit hole, I’ll focus on the article.
In the study, girls and boys were told about a very smart individual and were asked to guess which photo represented this person—one, a photo of a man, and the other of a woman. At age five, the results were consistent with a common trait of this age group to show positive biases toward their own gender. But by age six, both girls and boys tended to believe the man was this very smart individual. Likewise, other studies showed that at age six, girls began to avoid games deemed for very smart kids.
Encouraging STEM for Girls
As a woman, and a mom to a daughter, the results of this study were incredibly disheartening to read. As parents trying to raise a girl who speaks her mind and embraces her passions, this was just the encouragement my husband and I needed to keep emphasizing these exact notions. This is also why we fully support STEM for girls, and try to integrate it into our daughter’s play whenever we can, until she is old enough to choose her own interests. She’s still just shy of two, but clearly we have our work cut out for us as parents to break through these stereotypes and raise children who have the confidence and drive to set a new norm.
So, is STEM for girls - and more specifically, for my daughter? Yes, absolutely, along with whatever else she wants to explore. And now more than ever, my husband and I are determined not to let our daughter fall into this bucket, believing that brilliance is innate or tends to be a trait of men over women. That’s why we’ll try to highlight equally the smart women and men in our society as well as those who surround her every day. We’ll both show her that hard work pays off, with the hope that the combination of seeing this in action, along with having our support, will give her the confidence to pursue her interests no matter what the stereotypes say.
Editor's Note: This post was published in 2017 but has since been updated.
Webinar: A Parent's Guide to STEM EducationTogether with special guest, Dr. Anita Greenberg, CEO and founder of Science Delights, we explore the benefits of introducing STEM to your child early, activities, books, and games that can help, and how STEM helps set your child up for future success.
More on STEM for Kids
- e-News: STEM Activities for Preschool Children
- The Family Room: STEM Toys for Boys & Girls
- Youtube: Watch a Pre-K Kindergarten STEM Activity in action!