Girls can do anything boys can do, especially in math and science, but what if teachers, whose goal is to educate and empower kids, are discouraging girls from these subjects without knowing it?
This may be the case, according to new study conducted by the American Friends of Tel Aviv University and published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The research suggests that the perceptions elementary school teachers have about what girls can and can't do in math and science might be causing female students to shy away from those areas. Their unconscious biases are negatively impacting girls and unintentionally affecting the academic and career choices that female students make later in life.
Three groups of students, from sixth grade through the end of high school, were asked to take two exams. The exams were then graded by two different people: one who didn't know their names and one who did. The results showed that girls were scored higher than boys only when their tests were graded by the objective scorer versus the familiar scorer, reports Science Daily.
Researchers in Tel Aviv continued to follow the students and also noticed a pattern: if a girl was discouraged by an elementary school teacher, they were less likely to register for advanced-level science and math courses. But boys who were encouraged, despite being scored lower, actually began to excel more and more.
"It isn't an issue of discrimination but of unconscious discouragement," said Dr. Edith Sand, an economist at the Bank of Israel and an instructor at TAU's Berglas School of Economics. "This discouragement, however, has implications. The track to computer science and engineering fields, which report some of the highest salaries, tapers off in elementary school."
Women around the world are still underrepresented in multiple fields, especially ones related to math and science. Although strides have been made in the U.S. to help young girls have a more STEM-focused education, to play with more toys related to science, technology, engineering, and math, and teach them how to code with HTML, there is still more to be done so that they won't face inequalities in the future.
As parents, it's important to continue encouraging kids, regardless of gender, to pursue all endeavors, which will definitely be a step in the right direction.
Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She's a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn
Image: Girl at chalkboard via Shutterstock