There is a fascinating story on NPR this week about the lack of women in math and science fields that is worth a read.
It explores the reasons that there are more men than women in these fields and the reasons that many women do not stay in these fields. The article lays the blame on women’s awareness of stereotypes regarding their competency in these areas.
The author makes it clear that the problem is not all in women’s heads, but rather lays the blame at the feet of the pervasive messages that women hear on a daily basis about their abilities, or inabilities, in these areas.
I find this fascinating. When I was in middel school, I was told I was bad at two things – OK, maybe 3 things – math, science and art. Whether the people who told me these things recognized that they sent me this messages as a teenager or not, these messages stuck with me over the years; in fact, these messages have stuck with me to this day.
I worked in the field of domestic violence for many years and was always interested in the programs that many shelters have for children who have witnessed domestic violence, where they use art therapy to help children heal and cope with their untenable family situation.
As someone who was told that art was not a personal strength, I always felt more stressed by the idea of this type of therapy than soothed. The messages we are told when we are young stick with us.
The story on NPR seems to confirm this and posits the theory that this is one of the main reasons that women, even women in high level math and science professions, do not stay in those positions.
The story points out a fundamental challenge, in which there are not many women in these fields, and women seem less likely to enter these fields because they do not see themselves represented in these professions.
Quite a chicken and the egg conundrum.
What do you think? Have you, or your children, had any personal experiences with being told that you were not good at something? Have you found ways to counter these messages that work for you? Do you have any ideas about how more women could be encouraged to enter the fields of math and science? Or do you think that it is not really a problem to have this field so dominated by men?
I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.