Sunday, May 3, 2015

Childhood Bias?

Awhile ago, I wrote a blog post about the lack of women in the fields of computer science and engineering and how often times, these two college majors are seen as being "gendered." This post focussed primarily on how people are trying to balance out the discrepancy - but how is this discrepancy created? I came across a recent article that provides a reasonable explanation of this unfortunate issue.

The author, Claire Cain Miller, explains how she believes the discrepancy begins during one's childhood. Childhood toys that teach children about engineering are often times geared toward boys. Young girls are generally drawn towards pretty pink toys, and if engineering toys are dark colors and appear "boyish", girls are unlikely to pick them up; therefore, boys get exposure to engineering-like activities at a young age while girls do not.

A picture of a toy with the purpose of teaching children engineering-like skills... but do the colors scare away girls?

Another reason that girls are lacking in these fields comes from elementary school teachers' bias towards boys in regards to math and science. A study was done with a group of Israeli students in which students were given a test that was graded by their own teacher and another adult who was unfamiliar with the students. The students' own teacher gave all the boys in the class higher grades on the math and science portion of the test, while the impartial adult graded the tests accurately and the girls outscored the boys. With other subjects, the impartial grader and the teacher graded the same.

What do you think? Does this gendered field stem from childhood experiences? Are teachers biased toward boys in regards to math and science?

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