Talking about Bias Can Help Raise Girls' Interest in Science
Photo credit: AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini via qz.com
How many times have you heard that girls aren't interested in science because:
1. Because it's hard to be the only girl in the room / camp / class
2. Because there are no female teachers
3. Because there are no role models even outside the room / camp / class
or some combination of these reasons?
Well, that's what researchers at the Florida International University set out to study and ultimately de-bunked. Their paper, "Factors that affect the physical science career interest of female students: Testing 5 common hypotheses" found that one, unexpected factor mattered more than all of the conventional suspects.
The unexpected factor was a discussion of why women were under-represented in the sciences in the first place. It's not exactly clear why this would be the case, and it's of course, only one study of 7,000-something high school female students. However, one opinion we read in QZ tried to make sense of the finding.
Shannon Palus, the author writes that she is sympathetic with organizations and companies who try to make science and tech more accessible for women (think Engineer Barbie or GoldieBlox or companies that name conference rooms after female scientists).
However, she points out that doing this glosses over the responsibility that institutions ranging from universities to employers have for perpetrating bias and discrimination (conscious or not) and the -- far greater role -- she believes this plays in impacting the numbers of women and girls who are interested, pursue and succeed in the sciences.
It's certainly a piece that gives us food for thought.
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