Art affinity is a bad excuse why women aren’t in STEM

July 9, 2014

As more research shows, women’s tendency to study non-STEM subjects is because of the way they were raised, not because they tend to do better with more art-focused or creative fields.

There are a lot of people out there that believe that women aren’t capable of doing STEM, and haven’t been attracted to science, technology, engineering and math because their brains are more coordinated with art and creativity. But that is just not true. Women have been deterred from studying STEM not because they weren’t interested or “wired” to study those subjects, but because of the classroom atmosphere.

As young children, girls are just not given the motivation or experience that some girls are given when it comes to STEM. Kristie Grover from BIOCOM Institute explained what she thought happens at the elementary/middle-school level for girls during an interview with KPBS News.

“What we see is at the middle school level ...there’s an unintentional bias where we tend to say to young men, ‘pursue science and technology.’ That really hasn’t been the case for women,” Grover said.

In other words, instead of being encouraged and pushed to research further in the STEM fields, girls are being pushed out of the way so teachers can reach out and encourage the boys.

Going along with Grove, The Washington Post described the discrepancy between men and women in STEM as an issue of stereotypes.

“[There is a] stereotype that boys are better than girls in math and science still negatively affects the performance of girls in these fields. Gender differences in self-confidence in STEM subjects starts in middle school and increases thereafter, with girls being less confident in their math and science abilities.”

Therefore, it is clear that women’s supposed affinity to art certainly isn’t the problem. Now that it’s clear that the issue starts in the classroom, the question becomes: How can we stop this stereotyping of girls?

Washington Post offered an interesting idea regarding how teachers can encourage their female students, even when boys seem to be doing better than them.

“When teachers and parents tell girls that their intelligence can expand with experience and learning, the report says, they do better on math tests and are more likely to say they want to continue to study math in the future.”

It’s clear that while women may seem more artistic and creative because of the sex’s attention to style and personal habits, basing their interests off of that is just wrong. Even a girl who enjoys art or more creative things could be a good fit for any STEM job.

In this ever-changing, stereotype-bending society it has become clear that categorizing a person off of his or her supposed interests is a bad, bad idea. Stereotyping is like putting a person in a box. The person could have contributed so much to the world, but because s/he was in a box s/he was forced not to. Let’s make sure that never happens again.

Click the link to watch KPBS News’ interview with Kristie Grover or to read the full Washington Post article.

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