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  #31   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 03-24-2015, 07:34 PM
blaze8902 blaze8902 is offline
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Re: Gender Equality: A Work in Progress

This is a very complicated problem, with many differing solutions offered.

The only thing I have to say is that many of the "solutions" seem from my perspective just as sexist as the problems themselves.
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Unread 03-24-2015, 07:51 PM
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Re: Gender Equality: A Work in Progress

This is an issue especially dear to me- I am one of those "powerhouse" girls, or would consider myself one. I walked onto an all male team my freshman year, and it was one of the most challenging/defining moments of my life- I learned how to stand of myself, how to deal with opposition, and get involved. But there were definitely times where I felt pushed out, not included, or told I wasn't good at it. I've been exceptionally lucky- I have an enginneer and a computer scientist as parents, who have always pushed me towards STEM, and my first exposure to FIRST was through a small all girls FLL team, which is what encouraged me to seek out the FRC experience in the first place. Without those things in my background, I might have quit. After that year, I knew something had to change - and I started an all girls FTC team at my school, primarily because I absolutely knew there were more girls who wanted to be involved, but couldn't walk into that room of guys all by themselves. I was surprised to find it wasn't my "math-sciency" friends who joined me on the team, but students who were interested in all sorts of things- arts, humanities, english. We managed to make are way, figuring out how to build and put together a robot, and manage a team. But there were definitely some differences. I co-captain both teams, and I know that some of the girls who are wonderful at designing and building had to be pushed, reassured that they weren't doing something wrong, that it was ok to try and fail. They, and I, were less likely to jump in and just try something than are male counterparts- so that extra push, that explanation, can mean everything. Don't dismiss us if we don't get involved right away. Anyway, this is a great thread, and a great discussion to have. For any girls out there - you rock! Keep proving that we can do just as much and more. Try something new, be that mechanical, or programming, grant writing or photography- they're all valuable skills, for everyone.
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Unread 03-26-2015, 09:28 AM
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Re: Gender Equality: A Work in Progress

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Originally Posted by blaze8902 View Post
This is a very complicated problem, with many differing solutions offered.

The only thing I have to say is that many of the "solutions" seem from my perspective just as sexist as the problems themselves.
For the purpose of encouraging the discussion (and so hopefully shining light on current issues) can you provide specific examples of when the solutions seem to be just as sexist?
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Unread 03-26-2015, 10:17 AM
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Re: Gender Equality: A Work in Progress

In case anyone is interested, here are the statistics on gender gap.

http://reports.weforum.org/global-ge...p-report-2014/

Too often we refer to "studies" and "reports" without actually validating our words. While perhaps it is common knowledge that there is a gender gap in STEM in the US, here's a global look. STEM is 70/30 male/female in the US, by the way, and this is the report that says so. (Interestingly, politics really knocks the US down a level in this ranking).

I want to re-post this article from earlier in this thread:

https://hbr.org/2015/03/the-5-biases...en-out-of-stem

It contains links to other studies that appear quite interesting. I haven't read them all, but they seem to be methodical, and I encourage your curiosity to take over.

Finally, I frequently encounter attitudes very similar to the ones in this thread... progressive men, young men, boys that treat women as their complete equal. They do not see gender in their activities, and this is great! However, they also feel that putting in extra effort to get girls and women involved might be (bluntly) sexist in itself. While I have grown to understand that this attitude is insufficient when trying to balance the scales, we can see some logic in this thought: fair is fair, and if we do things fairly, the situation should work itself out... eventually.

Maybe that's true when enough generations pass, but the timescale is not nearly as good as it could be if we are proactive instead of passive.
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Unread 03-26-2015, 10:46 AM
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Re: Gender Equality: A Work in Progress

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Originally Posted by smurfgirl View Post
I'm too late to edit my previous post, but I just happened upon a relevant article on the biases pushing women out of STEM. It also discusses some differences in the experiences of women of different races. It's worth a read. Being aware of the existing biases means you can fight back against them and help to change the culture.
I just wanna bump this article real quick. Good feminism is intersectional feminism and even just being aware of things like these them is a huge step. Being nonwhite and female, even more difficulties are present when in STEM.
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Unread 03-26-2015, 11:05 AM
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Re: Gender Equality: A Work in Progress

One of the things I urge my teaching colleagues and fellow mentors, and current and future student team members to consider, is that when you observe something happening there are many other things that lead up to that point. If you think that providing extra or a different kind of encouragement for a girl to get involved is in itself sexist, take some time to sincerely look back and see the times that you were encouraged to get involved in STEM stuff. There is a good chance this started at a very young age. And it is entirely possible that you got a lot of encouragement. So you might not need so much right now.

Last year I had a discussion with a student who felt that need based financial aid was inherently unfair. That he was just as or more deserving of aid than a (hypothetical) poor student with similar or lower grades and scores who was getting a grant while he was having to take out a loan. I asked him if it was fair that he had parents who were a doctor and an engineer while this hypothetical student had a single parent who had never gone to college and could not afford to pay anything for his college education. His first reply was "That's different." But then he stopped and thought about it. The next day he told me "I never really thought about that way before."

I have encountered more than a few people who will go out of their way to encourage a kid who is quiet, lacks confidence or is socially awkward. They will push such kids to get them engaged. At a multi-team training session one of them (a former student of mine who was mentoring another team then) once remarked that he was uneasy giving what he perceived as "extra" encouragement to some a pair of girls to get them engaged. I asked him what he would do if he saw a pair of socially awkward boys standing to the side not engaging. He told me "I guess I am still learning Mr. King." and got those two girls to assemble and test a pair of gear boxes. I told him "That's a good thing. So am I."

It has taken us a long time to get to our current 38/34 boy to girl ratio. I think the two biggest keys for us were a strong FLL program that was getting kids involved before they got subtly pushed away and having a succession of girls who were good leaders. Those girls not only served as examples to other girls, they actively sought out more girls and helped found our "STEM Sisters" club. This year we actually had a few more girls than boys as team leaders. We had some younger boys who were not happy that they worked on a team with a girl involved. And were really not happy when a girl corrected them or offered advice. But for the most part (there are still a couple of holdouts alas) the younger boys were won over because they realized the girls were really competent.
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Unread 03-26-2015, 12:19 PM
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Re: Gender Equality: A Work in Progress

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It has taken us a long time to get to our current 38/34 boy to girl ratio. I think the two biggest keys for us were a strong FLL program that was getting kids involved before they got subtly pushed away and having a succession of girls who were good leaders.
Getting girls involved in STEM before they've had the chance to be pushed away is extremely important. I had the luck to go to a middle school with a halfway decent tech-ed/shop class where we got to build little cars and things like that, which definitely helped me define what I wanted in my future: to build cool stuff. My high school also offers the Women In Engineering/Intro to Engineering and Design run through PLTW which gave girls interested in STEM an all female environment to learn in. The teacher also contacted and brought in numerous female engineers to talk to us and give presentations, showing us that making a career in STEM is possible for a female.

However, I'm not sure what's going on, if they're still being pushed away from STEM, if they're changing their career goals, if they're moving away, but of my original W-IED class (already small with roughly 15 students) there's one left (myself), plus one other girl who transferred from another school. Next year there's likely going to be only one (myself), as a surprising number of students aren't taking the 4th year PLTW course.

I could talk for paragraphs upon paragraphs upon paragraphs about women in STEM and I have before, but I'm gonna stop myself here.
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Unread 03-28-2015, 02:02 PM
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Re: Gender Equality: A Work in Progress

I'm going to take a more radical, less common approach to this question. In advance I say that my opinions are mine and not Team 1257's; that being said I have a right to them, and you can agree or disagree.


It is things like this that make me wonder, "What is with people?" I mean, we're all humans right? Why should it matter at all whether we're boys or girls, or for that matter, black or white or Asian? I think that gender roles are among the most idiotic things in the existence of mankind. I think that the concept of "Cooties" and gender rivalry is immature at its finest. I think that, just like people should not be judged by the color of their skin, they should also not be judged by their X and Y chromosomes. And I think that the only place for gender differences is in the bedroom.
In other words, the only reason this is an issue is because we make it one. If children were treated the same from birth, that is, given the same toys and taught the same things, and not exposed to words like "tomboy" or "sissy" or "girlish" or "boyish", and not separated by gender, then this would not be a problem. Girls and boys should not care about what the "intended" gender of something is. In my ideal world, boys and girls alike would both watch princess movies and power rangers.
I'm not saying to force anything on anyone. They can and should be allowed to be interested in whatever it is they want. But they should be exposed to everything in an equal light. Kids aren't inherently interested in anything based on their gender. Everything they know about that is taught to them.
So if, at the earliest stages, children are integrated and gender diversity is encouraged, we won't have the underrepresentation of women in STEM. We will get as close to 50/50 as humanly possible. But as long as people nudge their boys to be boyish and their girls to be girlish, this will never get anywhere.
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Unread 03-28-2015, 09:49 PM
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Re: Gender Equality: A Work in Progress

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Originally Posted by alephzer0 View Post
In other words, the only reason this is an issue is because we make it one. If children were treated the same from birth, that is, given the same toys and taught the same things, and not exposed to words like "tomboy" or "sissy" or "girlish" or "boyish", and not separated by gender, then this would not be a problem. Girls and boys should not care about what the "intended" gender of something is. In my ideal world, boys and girls alike would both watch princess movies and power rangers.
I'm not saying to force anything on anyone. They can and should be allowed to be interested in whatever it is they want. But they should be exposed to everything in an equal light. Kids aren't inherently interested in anything based on their gender. Everything they know about that is taught to them.
So if, at the earliest stages, children are integrated and gender diversity is encouraged, we won't have the underrepresentation of women in STEM. We will get as close to 50/50 as humanly possible. But as long as people nudge their boys to be boyish and their girls to be girlish, this will never get anywhere.
Yeah, that's basically the entire problem with gender roles right there. Gender roles kinda suck, but they're a part of our society right now. In order to fix anything we as a society need to work toward abolishing our ideas of what boys should do and what girls should do. By telling girls they can and should only play with 'girl toys', we're telling them that if they want to play with 'boy toys', something is inherently wrong with them (the same goes for boys and 'girl toys' as well), and that's a problem, one that's going to be hard to fix.
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Unread 03-28-2015, 10:03 PM
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Re: Gender Equality: A Work in Progress

My team is actually a majority girl team this year, though it greatly fluctuates year to year. Overall we are about 50/50.
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