13 02 2014

“In the United States in 2009, women earned 52% of all Math + Science degrees, but only 18% of Technology-Related degrees. What’s up with that?”

– The opening scene from the She++ Documentary

I highly recommend watching the full 12-minute documentary!

She++ does a great job of discussing the stereotypes that drive many girls and women away from Computer Science. Those of us who are entrenched in this industry know that, while these stereotypes can be true, they don’t have to be. I love to code, and I’m not anti-social, my hygiene is great, and I’ve only consumed one energy drink in my entire life (I got a terrible stomach ache). Industry leaders like Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, show us very clearly that you can be a powerhouse in this industry and not fit any of the stereotypes.

“At this rate, literally the growth of the US tech industry is going to be throttled by the fact that US universities, and even the world’s universities, are not producing enough software engineers”

– Jocelyn Goldfein, Director of Engineering at Facebook

We are actually being held back from making technological advances that have already been conceived due to the lack of a skilled workforce to implement those advances. She++ points out that this is one of the most important reasons that we need women to join the technology workforce. We can’t afford to miss out on half the population when we’re so short on talent.

I also believe that the lack of gender diversity in our workforce inhibits innovation. Diverse teams come up with diverse ideas. Homogeneous teams tend to keep coming up with the same ideas over and over again. This industry is all about doing things that have never been done before, which is why diverse teams are so critical to technological advancement.

These jobs are also extremely fun. They’re creative. They’re intellectually rewarding. They are financially rewarding. And women are missing out on all of that. Historically, where women’s participation in the labor force grew fastest, the economy experienced the largest reduction in poverty rates. This is a historic opportunity to take gender equality in the workplace to the next level in the United States, and doing so will lead to happier women, but also happier, healthier families and a higher degree of economic and social empowerment for our children.

— Jen Miller, Program Coordinator

Math Anxiety – Fiction?

15 09 2013

Test anxiety. Symptoms include sweaty palms, twitching, shortening of breath and nervous energy. Many of us, men and women alike, have experienced it. But why is that women are more commonly portrayed to suffer from this? Surveys of high school students have shown that women are more likely to suffer from test anxiety than males, especially in math classes. In my experience, my female classmates were more expressive about their test anxiety while males where cool, calm, and collected. But does the outer appearance really portray individuals’ true experience?

A new study published in the journal of Psychological Science found that girls report test anxiety at a higher level than they experience. This study went beyond surveying the students, but also spent time in the math class watching the students as they took the exam. Surveys were administered before and after the exam. The results showed that women measured to have higher anxiety before exams were taken but during the class they had no more math anxiety than the men. This is encouraging even though it shows how much we as women have to break stereotypes.

The students tested were from grades 5 -11. Remembering back to this range, I remember trying as hard as I could to fit in. I wanted the girls to like me, and I wanted the boys attention. This was a fine balance to accomplish. The media portrays desirable women to let the man be the best. For many, this meant that being good at “tougher” subjects such as math or science was undesirable. The most popular method to get guys attention was to express worry over these subjects in hopes of them offering their support or sympathy. While this method worked, many of the friends I knew had a natural ability for math but refused to own up to it. Only once they entered college and recognized that being perceived as smart was a non-issue.

This study to me brings to light the importance of young ladies to understand that it is okay to be smart. Test anxiety is a real occurrence but women should not feel extra pressure because of their math ability. Most importantly, women need to give themselves permission to be good at math and science. Society should not persuade these young women to believe that are bad at math just because stereotypes state this. Lets change the way our youth believe they must be and allow them to pursue their passions.

– Marea