In STEM, a Growth Mindset Benefits Girls

Aug 23, 2017 1:36:44 PM Emily Jensen

Motivation and identity plays a crucial role when it comes to student performance and academic achievement. This is especially apparent in STEM subjects, where female students are more likely to face stereotypes and gender bias that keeps them from pursuing STEM. Parents, teachers and society as a whole have perpetuated the stereotype that girls and women are not as good as boys and men in STEM.  Intelligence, ability, and performance have no gender, and therefore it is important to understand what is happening in our schools that is perpetuating these gender stereotypes.

Comprehensive global research demonstrates that not only do girls consistently score higher grades than boys in math and science, but they also score higher grades in every subject. However, boys generally take the lead on standardized tests, including the SATs. This may indicate a gendered difference in learning style, where girls gravitate towards studying to understand the material (resulting in consistent good grades), while boys placed more emphasis on measurable performance (resulting in high test scores) (Nedeljkovic, 2016).

While the gender disparity is still large in STEM, girls are becoming increasingly involved in STEM. In 2016, Eleanor Sigrest, an eighth-grader at Benton Middle School in Manassas, Virginia, won the sixth annual Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering Rising Stars) competition, which aims to spark young people's interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). In July 2017, six Afghan girls won a silver medal for "courageous achievement" at the robotics competition in Washington D.C.

Additionally, the new Miss USA is visiting schools all over the country to remind students that young women have a seat at the table in STEM. Producing movies such as Hidden Figures showing inspiring STEM “SHEROES” is much needed for girls. Having role models and advisors can be useful when it comes to motivating young girls to embrace math. However, industry leaders, educators, and communities need to do more to expose and encourage students to these principles, especially young women. Influencing and encouraging young girls to become great leaders through STEM studies is certainly key to solving many issues, including the fact that women are still behind in workplace equality. Additionally, there is no doubt that governments and businesses would benefit from collaborating on efforts that will empower more women and accelerate gender equality in the workforce.