Cumulative Effects of Math and Earning Potential or Why I dropped everything to publish Off-Kilta Matilda.
When was the last time you left something on the table? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked away from a negotiation thinking that was too easy. I should have asked for more.
Does this sound familiar? What could’ve led to it? Was it a casual comment from a family member, someone at school that you are not a math person? Was it a Barbie Doll that said, “Math is Hard?” There could be any number of reasons.
Myths and societal stereotypes have always played a significant role in deterring girls and women from choosing Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) careers. (nbcnews.com)
Though the mindset of “not being a math person” is true for both girls and boys alike 2, the “fallacy of inborn math ability” 2 is responsible for girls believing in their inability to excel in math. This sort of mindset is sometimes thrust upon them.
And guess what the result is? You’re right if you are thinking lower-paying jobs. Girls miss out on successful careers in engineering, technology, science, math, and finance.
According to a Federal study, students who study advanced math in high school have higher salaried jobs and fewer chances of becoming unemployed 1. And, girls who do not pursue higher math in high school lose this opportunity for high-paying jobs.
According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, the gender disparities are more prominent in STEM careers- in engineering, the physical sciences and computer science 4. Though women constitute half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, they make up only 29% of the science and engineering workforce.
Though the gender wage gap cannot wholly be ascribed to just education level or college major, but Economic Policy Institute’s (EPI) Gould et al., (2016) point out that there is a connection between major and salary when it comes to employment. Most women tend to major in humanities, which are associated with lower-paying jobs, as compared to STEM subjects, which are associated with higher-paying jobs 5. Gould et al., (2016) also posit that school years prior to joining college strongly impact girls’ and women’s choices regarding majors in college. Women display less interest in STEM subjects as they head to college when compared to men.
The result is that they end up with careers that offer lower salaries or opportunities to progress. They remain underpaid when compared to their male counterparts. And in some cases, women become mired in economic struggles.
It is imperative to provide girls and women opportunities for high paying careers not only for their own sakes but also for bringing diversity into such professions 4. This can be accomplished by getting our society to change its “math gene” and “boys have aptitude for math compared to girls” mindset; changing our stereotypical thinking and changing the classroom teaching methods with respect to math and girls.
Math, it seems, has become one fear factor in girls and women choosing to become engineers and scientists. It is time that society evaluates what kind of messages it’s conveying to its girls and women regarding their ability to excel in math and math-related careers 4. In addition, there is a need to reevaluate how math is taught in schools and universities.
Let us all resolve to shun this attitude towards math at home and in our schools that discourage girls from studying STEM subjects. At the same time, we need to instill confidence in our girls that there is nothing they can’t do if they set their hearts on it; that there is no such thing as “math gene”, only hard work and a growth mindset.
I co-wrote and am producing Off-Kilta Matilda to help girls love math, to encourage resilience, and to foster a growth mindset for young girls interested in math and STEM professions.
- Thompson, Derek (2013). Will Studying Math Make You Richer? Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/11/will-studying-math-make-you-richer/281104/
- Kimball, Miles & Smith, Noah (2013). The Myth of “I’m Bad at Math”. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/10/the-myth-of-im-bad-at-math/280914/
- Science on NBCNEWS.com. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/id/20466219/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/stereotypes-turn-girls-math-science/#.WgNQcGJSyRt
- Wallace, Kelly (2016). The ‘boys are better at math’ mindset creates gender gap in sciences. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/12/health/female-scientists-engineers-math-gender-gap/index.html
- Gould, Elise, Scheider, Jessica & Geier, Kathleen (2016). What is the gender pay gap and is it real? Retrieved from http://www.epi.org/publication/what-is-the-gender-pay-gap-and-is-it-real/