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Myths and Obstacles girls and young women


Like legends, some people believe in them, but they do not represent reality. ... The insidious and misguided implication (of the belief in that myth) is that all ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Myths and Obstacles girls and young women

Myths and Obstaclesgirls and young women
  • Monique Frize
  • Systems and Computer Engineering, Carleton
  • and School of Information Technology and
    Engineering, University of Ottawa

Myths... 4 points
  • Like legends, some people believe in them, but
    they do not represent reality.
  • People feel comfortable believing in them, or
    prefer to accept what the myth represents,
    especially if it fits their own views.
  • It is easier to maintain beliefs in myths that
    support the status quo than to challenge
    long-held beliefs and change patterns of
    behaviour to build a world of equality and
    opportunity for everyone.
  • Debunking myths and legends can make us
    uncomfortable and uneasy, but the clarification
    can help to make the world a better place.

Myth no 1
  • Gender stereotypes have disappeared and no longer
    limit career choice for girls (and boys)

Baumgartner-Papageorgiou 1982, 1992
  • What the girls said
  • They could be calm and cool, not allowed to
    express their true feelings, be rowdy, macho,
    smart-alecky, show-off more, and would be valued
    by their parents.
  • Jobs Professional athletes, construction
    workers, engineers, pilots, forest rangers, and
  • "their lives would be better economically and
    status-wise, and they would enjoy more freedom,
    and have a better time, with less responsibility.

Baumgartner-Papageorgiou 1982, 1992
  • What the boys said
  • they must be beautiful, know how to put make-up
    on, no one would be interested in their brain,
    and they were not sure if they would be
    appreciated by their parents.
  • Jobs Secretary, social worker, model, airline
    stewardess, and prostitute.

Myra and David Sadker 1994
  • Upper-elementary and middle school students from
    twenty-four classrooms in Maryland, Virginia, and
    Washington DC (US) to write an essay about waking
    up as a member of the other sex.
  • A twelve-year old girl When I grow up, I will
    be able to be almost anything I want, including
    governor and president of the United States.
  • People will listen to what I have to say and
    will take me seriously. I will have a secretary
    to do things for me. I will make more money now
    that I am a boy.
  • Another said I would feel more on top. I guess
    thats what a lot of boys feel.

What boys wrote
  • Most found the thought of being a girl appalling,
    disgusting, humiliating it was completely
  • One sixth grade boy said If I were a girl, my
    friends would treat me like dirt.
  • Some even mentioned suicide if they woke up as a
  • Early socialisation can marks boys and girls with
    stereotypes some boys learn early to disrespect
    girls and women.

Gender Socialization, New Ways, New World
Rebecca Coulter, 1993
  • Study on how sex stereotypes are constructed
    early in life it describes how sexist attitudes
    and behaviours occur at home and at school, from
    birth to adolescence.
  • How parents often display attitudes and
    expectations that differ for male and female
    children with respect to achievement in
    mathematics and science.
  • Many sexist attitudes are so entrenched that they
    have even become unconscious and unnoticed.
  • This partly explains why many girls still
    under-estimate their abilities in mathematics and
    science in spite of the fact that they currently
    perform as well as boys.

Myth no 2 Boys are better in mathematics
and science than girls.
  • Scores compared between boys and girls in
    kindergarten, grade one, and grade five in the
    US, Taiwan, and Japan
  • US was always in third place in almost every one
    of the nine sub components of the mathematical
    tests, and never scored first.
  • Regarding sex differences, Japanese girls scored
    higher on all sub components than US boys.
  • Factors like motivation, schooling, and other
    environmental influences are more likely
    responsible for the small differences where they
    exist. (Valian, 2000, 85-86)

Hyde et al. On gender performance in math
  • For grades 2 to 11, the general population no
    longer shows a gender difference in math skills,
    consistent with the gender similarities
  • There is evidence of slightly greater male
    variability in scores, although the causes remain
  • Gender differences in math performance, even
    among high scorers, are insufficient to explain
    lopsided gender patterns in participation in some
    STEM fields. (Hyde et al., 2008, 495)

Ontario study, 1993
  • Girls were doing better than boys in the
    provincial exams in mathematics by at least four
    percentage points, and in all classes of grades
    three, six, and eight.
  • In grade 3, 58 percent of boys and 46 percent of
    girls thought they were good at mathematics.
  • In grade 8, 35 of girls and 58 of boys.
    (Schmidt, 1997)
  • Building a positive self-esteem and confidence in
    girls will contribute to improving their actual
    performance and make them realize that these
    subjects can be natural choices for them.

Other issues
  • Sexual Harassment high school girls speak out
    (June Larkin, 1994).
  • Computer games and technology courses. Gender
    Inclusive Game DesignExpanding the Market
    (Graner Ray, 2003).
  • Social relevance.

Graner Ray found...
  • Gender approaches differ in game play preference.
  • She provides suggestions for designers to create
    games that appeal to girls.
  • She cites three main areas of gender variance
  • 1. Males respond most to visual stimuli, females
    to emotion and touch.
  • 2. Males like to tackle conflicts head-to-head,
    while females prefer compromise, diplomacy,
    negotiation and manipulation.
  • 3. Males tend to be satisfied with visual
    rewards, but females require emotional

Other issues
  • Social relevance in curriculum
  • Careers that help people
  • Multidisciplinary fields
  • Teaching styles

Myth "The occurrence of sexual harassment has
been exaggerated. There really isn't a problem."
  • Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual
    favours, and other verbal or physical conduct of
    a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when
    any one of the following is true
  • Submission to such conduct is made either
    explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of a
    persons employment or academic advancement
  • submission to or rejection of such conduct by an
    individual is used as a basis for employment
    decisions or academic decisions affecting the

Potential Impact
  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of
    unreasonably interfering with a person's work or
    academic performance or creating an intimidating,
    hostile, or offensive working, learning, or
    social environment. (Sandler Shoop, 1997, 4)

Three characteristics
  • The behaviour is unwanted or unwelcome.
  • The behaviour is sexual or related to the sex or
    gender of the person.
  • The behaviour occurs in context of a relationship
    where one person has more formal power than the
    other, or more informal power.
  • (Sandler and Shoop, 1997, 5)

Examples of power relationships
  • A work supervisor and an employee
  • a faculty member and a student
  • a physician and a patient.
  • An informal power relationship exists where one
    peer or colleague, while nominally equal in the
    hierarchy, exerts an influence over another.

A study (1992) women chemical engineersby
Caruana and Mascone
  • At least 67 women in a plant and 57 percent of
    women in an office had suffered some type of
    harassment during their career.
  • Women who had been harassed had a completely
    different perception about harassment than those
    who claimed never having been harassed.
  • 51 percent of women who responded that they had
    been harassed thought this was a common
    occurrence 47 percent of this group felt it was
    an occasional occurrence and 2 percent thought
    this was rare.
  • Only 4 percent of women who claimed never having
    been harassed thought this was a common
    occurrence 69 percent thought it was occasional
    and 27 percent saw this as rare.

Frize article (1995)
  • Harassment frequently occurs for reasons other
    than sexual favours
  • It is a question of power and domination.
  • Harassment can take the form of backlash, to
    unhinge women or discourage them from working in
    a male-dominated environment.
  • Treating women as a sexual object or making
    sexist remarks can make some women feel they do
    not belong and may discourage them to remain in
    the field.

Awards and prizes
  • In 9 decades, 9 women won a Nobel Prize (one
    woman received 2).
  • Women constitute 2 of Nobel Laureates since its
  • The last three were given to women in the 1980s,
    many years after their work had been done they
    were bypassed for many years and thus were much
    older when they were finally recognised.
  • Men who won these prizes were in general of
    similar age as the peers who evaluated them.
    Younger men have also won, providing them with
    cash resources that freed them from financial
    concerns to do their work.
  • This seemed to arrive somewhat late for the women
    who were selected for the Prize. (Rose, 1994,

Myth of meritocracy double standards
  • In Lifting a Ton of Feathers
  • Paula Caplan discusses myths in academia and in
    particular the myth of meritocracy.
  • She argues that faculty women in male-dominated
    fields are more likely than other faculty women
    to believe in the myth that people are rewarded
    according to the merit of their work, either in
    terms of a promotion, for tenure, for an award or
    a prize.

She writes
  • Many of us find it painful to recognize that
    making a place for ourselves in the academy can
    involve putting on shows of various kinds, being
    in the right places, saying the right things,
    knowing the right people. We long to have our
    work speak for itself. (Caplan, 1993, 48)

Caplan concludes
  • The insidious and misguided implication (of the
    belief in that myth) is that all men working in
    academia were hired solely on the basis of merit,
    without networks, friendships and so on. A
    related (and erroneous) implication is that when
    women are not hired, it is only because their
    work isnt good enough. (Caplan, 1993, 49)

Rossiter 1982 NRC Fellowships
  • Between 1920 and 1938, 487 women were awarded a
    PhD but only 4 received the fellowship in
  • In physics, it was even lower, with 86 women PhDs
    and 2 NRC fellows.
  • Zoology had 395 women obtaining a PhD and 14
    winning a fellowship.
  • Men won 98 percent of fellowships in chemistry,
    99 percent in physics, and 89 percent of these in

Rossiter adds
  • NRC did not even consider the possibility that an
    all-male selection committee could have been
    biased and concluded that the female candidates
    were weak and undeserving. (Rossiter, 1982, 271)
  • Women faced a deliberately negative reception
    from foundation officials, who were twice as
    skeptical of their abilities as they were of male
  • The women had to compete not only against the
    other applicants but also against the selection
    committees stereotypes of womens abilities.
    (Rossiter, 1982, 271)

Geis, Carter, and Butler (1986)
  • Found that, for a male administrator frequently
    failing to complete his work, the perception was
    that the job was too heavy, that he needed an
    assistant, and thus more responsibility and
  • For a female administrator frequently failing to
    complete her work, the perception was that she
    was incompetent, could not handle the job, and
    that she needed a less responsible (and less
    salaried) position.

Sonnert and Holton
  • In spite of 20 affirmative action in these
    fields, the glass ceiling was still very present.
  • Of the 29 women and 27 men who were hired in
    the top fifteen percent of academic institutions
    in the US, women paid the price in terms of a
    disadvantaged rank The average offer to the
    women was one full rank below the average offer
    to men (assistant professor for women, and
    associate professor for men).

  • Nearly three-quarters of the women (73 percent)
    said they had experienced some form of
    discrimination (denial of job or of tenure) 13
    percent of the men said they had experienced
    reverse discrimination.

  • Women mentioned experiencing subtle exclusions
    and marginalisation. As for opportunities for
    collaborative work, women said this occurred when
    they were to be in a subordinate role, but much
    less when an equal partnership role was sought.
    In the same study, on the potential influence of
    gender on their research, a number of men and
    women agreed that gender played a role.

Did gender influence choice of research topic?
  • 40 women and 16 men agreed that it did
  • 36 women and 20 men thought gender influenced
    ways of thinking and research methods.
  • Re publications, women felt they were more
    thorough in their articles and this would result
    in the production of a lower number of papers.
  • The average number of papers per year for women
    was 2.3, and for men, 2.8.

Measuring performance
  • But the average number of citations for women's
    papers was 24.4 per paper, and 14.4 for men's
    papers. (Sonnert and Holton, 1996)
  • This suggests that measuring performance and
    output of academics should look at quality
    instead of quantity of work accomplished.
    (Sonnert and Holton, 1996)

Myth "When women get married and have a baby,
they abandon their career or become less
committed to it.
  • 1998 OIQ Average leave for women and for men
    was not significantly different reasons for the
    leave taken by the men differed from those taken
    by women.
  • Men had taken an average of three weeks for
    parental leave and the women several months
    other men took a long leave for reasons related
    to lifestyle.
  • A previous study by a large engineering employer
    in 1991 showed that parental leaves were taken
    only by women.

Changing times
  • In seven years, several more men participated in
    parental care.
  • The same firm also ruled out maternity as a
    factor for women leaving their job.
  • Some women engineers do leave, especially if they
    are working in a hostile environment which may
    coincide with a pregnancy, but the main factor
    for leaving would be a poisoned or a negative
    atmosphere at their workplace.
  • Several women said they may as well take care of
    their baby until they can find a better employer.
    After a career break, these women often
    re-entered the job market in a different firm
    (CCWE 1992).

Graduate studies
  • 1995 story (2 young professors in engineering)
  • MIT 1996, 1997, and 1998

Breaking with Tradition, Felice Schwartz (1962)
  • Pattern of work for men and women in 1962, and in
  • Between 1946 and 1964, the fertility rate was 3.7
    births per woman.
  • Average working pattern for women in 1962 was
    full-time (22-25) career break to raise a family
    (25-35) half time (35-45) full-time until
  • Men worked full time without career breaks.

1992 picture is quite different
  • Schwartz shows women on average a half-time break
    (30-35) and worked full time for the rest of
    their career.
  • Men showed a similar pattern of working half time
    for a five year period, but that occurred later,

Schwartz 1992 writes
  • Before she has a baby, todays woman has chosen a
    career, trained for it, gained substantial
    experience, and given her employer ample time to
    assess the quality of her performance. By that
    time, if shes good and seriously motivated, she
    is a highly valued, seasoned professional in whom
    the company has made a substantial investment.
    (Schwartz, 1992, 55-70)

Double standards and potential biases in criteria
for judging excellence -
A major obstacle ...
  • In general, womens contributions and abilities
    are LESS valued than mens.

Womens contributions and abilities are less
valued than mens
  • Affects
  • Hiring, promotions, salary
  • Retention
  • Awards, scholarships, prizes, Chairs
  • Royal Society membership, fellowships ...
  • Grants and grant size
  • Publications
  • Decision-making roles

Womens contributions and abilities are less
valued than mens
  • Evidence Sweden
  • Women needed 2.5 more productivity to receive
    same award (postdoctoral fellowship in biomedical
    sciences) Wenneras and Wold, Nature, 2000

Womens contributions and abilities are less
valued than mens
  • Evidence In Canada
  • 2000 Research Chairs --overwhelmingly awarded to
    men, much less to women than the available pool

Womens contributions and abilities are less
valued than mens
  • Evidence USA, top 15 Universities
  • Study of outstanding NRC scholars on average,
    women appointed as Assistant professor, men
    Associate professor Sonnert and Holton, 1996

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Womens contributions and abilities are less
valued than mens
  • Evidence
  • MIT Survey Women had smaller offices, labs,
    salaries, and recognition
  • Survey is needed in every university

Time will NOT fix this
  • The history of women in science has NOT been
    characterized by a march of progress but by
    cycles of advancement and retrenchment.
  • Womens situation has changed along with social
    conditions, climates of opinion and royal
  • Has Feminism Changed Science, p. 32,

Strategies for 21st CenturySociety
  • Sensitise women and men on valuing and respecting
    womens contributions and abilities
  • Empower girls and women to believe in themselves,
    be the best they can be
  • Mentoring, networking and support throughout
  • Continue major efforts not to lose ground

Strategies schools and parents
  • Increase the profile of successful women
  • Increase contact with students
  • Demystify various disciplines, show human
  • Male role models who support progress and share
    family and household responsibilities

  • Challenge the world to a NEW VISION of Womens
    Role and Contributions in a Knowledge-based