Women, Stereotypes, and Science; By Oswaldo Molina | Opinion


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Last Friday was marked by International Day of Women and Girls in Science. In a country like Peru – where the government, through appointments of officials, shows us little interest in a problem woman– , it is necessary to delve into the reason for the lack of presence of Peruvian women in the fields related to them Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (or, as they are known, STEM jobs), although these jobs are more profitable. In fact, in Peru, according to Sunedu, only 32% of graduates of these professions are women.

Now, to understand the reasons behind these numbers, we must go further and understand what happens to the girls During the course of their formation, because this is where stereotypes play a major role. That is, although there are no differences in ability between children and the girlsthe the girls They are often seen as less skilled in areas such as mathematics. Together with my colleagues Francisco Gallego (PUC Chile) and Christopher Nelson (Princeton), I had the opportunity to thoroughly investigate the perceptions of the girls in our country. Data is devastating. By the end of primary school, only 28% of the girls They believe that they are skilled in mathematics, when, in contrast, 45% of children have this perception of their abilities. This self-perception of the girls It continues to worsen as he progresses into high school: in fifth grade only 16% of woman He is considered skilled in mathematics. Moreover, these stereotypes are reinforced both at home and at school. At home, we find that fathers consistently believe that their sons are more skilled in mathematics than their daughters. woman Thus, they end up loading those with the brunt of the housework. Meanwhile, in school, research by Michaela Karlana (Harvard) shows how the gender gap in math performance in school triples in those classes whose teacher has beliefs based on gender stereotypes (ie, implicitly associating math with children). Predictably, whether it’s because of their poor self-awareness, a lack of support in their homes and schools, or simply because of their greater homework commitments, we also find that young women end up dedicating fewer hours per week to studying math. By doing this, what was initially just a false perception of oneself ends up being asserted. We are specifically faced with the tragedy of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Therefore, it is not surprising that young women prefer to choose other types of professions when they finish school.

Along this road that the girlsHow many role models do they need? books Science Full of male scientists! The emergence of female role models helps break down gender stereotypes and can be a major source of motivation for women. the girls. To give you an idea of ​​how relevant this is, a recent study by Emma Riley (University of Washington) shows empirical evidence of the effect of role models on the results of a major national secondary examination in Uganda. I showed a motivational movie with the heroine – the Queen of Katwe – to a subset of the students before this important national exam, while I had the rest of the students watch any other movie. Those who watched the selected movie performed better on the test, especially in math. As expected, the biggest influences were concentrated in woman.

settling the way to Sciences subordinate the girls s woman It requires, therefore, a direct and careful attack on stereotypes and the emergence of role models in which our thoughts can be reflected. the girls. This was exactly the experience of Lucia del Carpio and Maria Guadalupe (both from INSEAD) when they sought to recruit woman Poor people from Peru and Mexico to attend a computer programming course. Those calls that included motivational messages and a successful female role model had twice the response rate compared to traditional calls. This is that woman They want to get opportunities in SciencesMany find themselves trapped, as if on a circuit-like path, in those misconceptions that have been repeated to them since childhood.

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