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Influences on disparity between girls' and boys' achievements in STEM areas.

Although girls and boys take math and science courses in roughly equal numbers in elementary, middle, and high school, more men than women pursue majors in the STEM areas (e.g., science, technology, engineering, or math). In fact, women earn only 20% of bachelor's degrees in physics, engineering, and computer science. With support from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and the National Science Foundation, Hill, Corbett, and Rose (2010) have studied this problem and attributed this disparity to the effects of societal beliefs and the learning environment on girls' achievements and interests in science and math (Why so few? Women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Washington, DC: AAUW). One of their findings suggest that when teachers and parents tell girls that their intelligence can expand with experience and learning, girls do better on math tests and are more likely to study math in the future. On the other hand, stereotypes (e.g., boys are better in math and science than are girls) can lower girls' aspirations. Even when girls achieve similarly to boys, they tend to assess their mathematical abilities lower than do boys; girls believe that they must be exceptional to succeed in male-dominated STEM fields. Unfortunately, when a woman is clearly competent in a "masculine" job, she is considered less likable. To cultivate girls' achievement and interest in science and engineering, AAUW makes the following recommendations for K-12 teachers (pp. 90-92):

* Spread the word about girls' and women's achievements in math and science.

* Teach girls that intellectual skills, including spatial skills, are acquired.

* Teach students about stereotype threat and promote a growth-mindset environment.

* Send the message in talented and gifted programs that they value growth and learning.

* Encourage children to develop their spatial skills.

* Help girls recognize their career-relevant skills.

* Encourage high school girls to take calculus, physics, chemistry, computer science, and engineering classes when available.

* Make performance standards and expectations clear.

For universities, AAUW adds these recommendations to attract and retain more female students (pp. 93-94):

* Actively recruit women into STEM majors.

* Send an inclusive message about who makes a good science or engineering student.

* Emphasize real-life applications in early STEM courses.

* Teach professors about stereotype threat and the benefits of a growth mindset.

* Make performance standards and expectations clear in STEM courses.

* Take proactive steps to support women in STEM majors.

* Enforce Title IX in science, technology, engineering, and math.

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Title Annotation:science, technology, engineering, or math
Publication:Gifted Child Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2010
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