We are the Future

By Sophie Velez

Girls are internalizing the wrong messages and limiting their life choices in the process.

While writing my article about the chess gender gap in our club and chess society, I stumbled upon an eye-opening article. I spoke about it in my chess article but would like to examine a few similar articles and studies today. The main intention of this article is to give you all an understanding of the mindsets of girls/women today and provide studies that prove their mindset as well as how we as a society can reverse this mindset and set our girls up for happiness in whatever career they decide to pursue.

At birth, we are all born with a blank canvas, an empty mind with only the knowledge of the warmth of our mother’s womb. It’s up to the world, the experiences we have, and the people around us to create and shape us into the individuals we are today. Think of our personalities and how we function as a code. Other than our innate behaviours, if we are not taught something, we will never learn it. If everyone around you speaks Spanish and you are only exposed to speaking Spanish, you will only know Spanish until you are able to learn and research new languages on your own. If we are raised in an environment where we are constantly being reminded of the stereotypes and taught the “roles” of men and women in our household and the different social and economic standards for men and women, how will we ever learn about the power and intelligence we truly have? When will we learn the power we hold, when will someone tell us or show us? If you grew up in a household like this, you will have these embedded beliefs until you find out for yourself or learn that it is a form of misogyny. We learn most of the stereotypes in life from a very early age, and these stereotypes have the potential to hold us back from doing things we love sincerely.

Exhibit: A – Gender stereotypes about intellectual ability in Japanese children
Gender stereotypes about intellectual ability in Japanese children is an article that was published on the 11th of October in 2022 by Mako Okanda, Xianwei Meng, Yasuhiro Kanakogi, Moe Uragami, Hiroki Yamamoto & Yusuke Moriguchi. This article examines whether 4 to 7-year-old Japanese children exhibit a “brilliance = males” stereotype and whether parental attitudes toward gender roles were related to the stereotype the children exhibit. This experiment was separated into 2 studies: Study One and Study Two. In study one, the men, women, boys, and girls were shown pictures of men/boys and women/girls that were controlled by attractiveness and clothes with colours remaining uncontrolled. In study two, the subjects were shown stick figures with fewer perceptual cues. The results indicated Japanese children may develop a “brilliance = males” mindset later than American children who were 6 years old.

The American study mentioned in this article is the one I used in my women in chess article. This study was conducted by Lin Bian, Sarah-jane Leslie, And Andrei Cimpian. To restate, the article was titled “Gender Stereotypes about intellectual ability emerge early and influence children’s Interests”, which I related to their attitudes towards chess and why we lack female players. The article communicates with us the aftermath of the results, which reiterated how women and girls stray away from activities that were commonly associated with intelligence and that they associated brilliance and activities of higher intellectual activity with men and not their gender.

Exhibit B: Gender Stereotypes ‘Begin in Childhood’ | ITV News: https://youtu.be/vvIzGbWq7Ko
I encourage you to watch the video to understand further.
This video gave clear examples and studies of girls associating intellectual and ambitious careers with men. The primary cause of this could be what they see in their everyday lives, such as the lack of women in areas of work such as police officers and scientists, but it could also be what they see on television or what their parents are embedding in their minds. Another study I found spoke about how media that perpetuate rigid gender roles and stereotypes can affect children’s sense of self, career aspirations, and relationships within their lives. The children in this video were asked to draw what they wanted to be when they grow up and the results are as follows:
Over five times the number of boys in the class selected to draw themselves in the Army and the fire service compared to girls, and almost twice as many drew scientists. We could see as well that more girls than boys would like to become teachers, hairdressers and doctors and when asked to draw a picture of a firefighter, surgeon and fighter pilot, 92% drew them all as men.

Overall, the short documentary did a good job of using real-world examples such as visiting universities to talk to head directors about women’s education. When the interviewer spoke to a group of students studying at Cambridge University, one of the students stated: “I’ve noticed a loss of more reticent in group discussions I think quite a lot of progress has been made in education for women but a lot of work has to be done in employment we are sort of bombarded with the media as well with different stereotypes and so it kind of is internalized with us that we see women behaving a certain way”

This is important to the article because it is evident that stereotypes are embedded in the early stages of women’s lives. As a result, women become conscious of particular stereotypes.

Exhibit C: The STEM Gap: Women and Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
This article explained how throughout their education, girls and women are systematically steered away from science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), decreasing their access, preparation, and ability to pursue these professions as adults. It is informative because it explains that women account for only 28% of the workforce in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), which means men outnumber women in most STEM subjects in college.
Gender inequalities are especially marked in some of the future fastest-growing and highest-paying professions, such as computer science and engineering. A few of the key factors perpetuating gender STEM gaps the research in this article was able to provide for us were Gender Stereotypes, Male-Dominated Cultures and Fewer Role Models. In this section of the article, it spoke about teachers and parents often underestimating girls’ math abilities starting as early as preschool and about how there is so few representation of female scientists and engineers in books, media, and popular culture therefore females have fewer role models to stimulate their interest in these occupations.

The lack of underrepresentation and stereotypes starts at birth and is not able to be solved in one day. This will take generations of growth.

What can you do?

Do you have a little sister? A daughter? Cousins? You can be a part of the solution. It’s important to remember that the internalization of these inaccurate messages can harm the mindsets of children and more specifically girls, beginning as early as the age of 6 years old. The research is conducted to show us the progression of these stereotypes. Let’s fill our girls’ minds with encouragement and tremendous support. Let’s make sure they don’t associate men with brilliance and intellectual occupations and try our best to reduce the influence on our children from this mindset. This can be done through a craft activity or perhaps a pep talk.

For parents: Try to be attentive to the shows and videos your child is watching and start as early as possible when teaching them about the power and strength they have. Make sure to reinforce the notion that they are able to achieve anything they set their minds to.

Children are the future so parents/ guardians have the power to change the world.

If there’s something we don’t want for our future generations of women, it’s to be surrounded by the mindset of male superiority and the belief that they are less smart than men. If we continue this way, the gaps in our STEM occupations will increase and our girls’ mindsets will never develop positively.

Let’s change the way we view the world; educating one developing mind at a time.