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You know how women are better at empathizing and men are better at math? Yeah, that’s actually not true at all. Harmful stereotypes like these are more influential than we usually care to acknowledge, often leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Even in areas where actual performance is equal, when a certain group is reminded that they are supposed to be bad at something, their performance weakens. Now imagine that the message of “women are bad at science, men are bad at feelings” is subtly expressed to everyone starting at birth. A test of social sensitivity or math only finds gender differences because the participants are aware of how they are expected to perform. Playing with gender identity has a huge impact on success at skills usually thought to be better suited for the opposite sex. When a group of people are asked to write a first-person story from the perspective of someone named Ashley, they perform significantly worse on tests of math skills than a control group.
It’s not enough to stop teachers from making gendered statements about math and science. The children are getting that message every day as they interact with society. The myth has to be actively dispelled. Until we stop subconsciously teaching our daughters that they are less intelligent or capable than our sons, they will go through their academic lives with an unfair handicap. Sara Wofford, Women And Men In Science: We Can Close The Gap on Feminspire.com