Parents Explain More Often to Boys Than to Girls During Shared Scientific Thinking



Young children’s everyday scientific thinking often occurs in the context of parent-child interactions. In a study of naturally occurring family conversation, parents were three times more likely to explain science to boys than to girls while using interactive science exhibits in a museum. This difference in explanation occurred despite the fact that parents were equally likely to talk to their male and female children about how to use the exhibits and about the evidence generated by the exhibits. The findings suggest that parents engaged in informal science activities with their children may be unintentionally contributing to a gender gap in children’s scientific literacy well before children encounter formal science instruction in grade school.

This is at the core of the STEM Gender Gap.

It is simply a fact that by the time women reach adulthood the majority of them just don’t want to be scientists or mathematicians..  And whatever quotas you put into place it just won’t work because there’s insufficient demand.  

We can talk about “well women are discouraged” or “natural biological inclinations say…” or what have you.

But here’s the deal.  Nothing we say on the subject when looking at fully-grown and realized adults will be entirely accurate if daughters when growing up aren’t taught to the same scientific standards and material as sons are, even informally, even if it’s the mother doing the teaching.

Teach your kids.  Love them.  Help them grow.  Enable them to be fucking amazing.  Let them be spectacular.

My dad always tried to encourage me to “develop tool sense”—to involve me in building things or putting things together or taking them apart. I’m glad he thought girls should learn that! But I usually rejected this because I didn’t know enough about what he was doing to understand *what I was supposed to notice* once he unscrewed some bit of something or showed me some wiring.

I wanted to participate, but I felt stupid, because I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. It wasn’t until I got into Transformers fandom as an adult and essentially bought myself puzzle toys that I started to learn how built/engineered things fit together, and I was terribly insecure about it at first and in some ways I still am. (It’s especially tough for me because since I never learned it, I don’t know things names: “I think this joint thing bends this way and then that way, but I can’t move it! Am I wrong about how it bends or is it sticky?” “Joint thing? Do you mean the double hinge?”)

Not sure where I’m going with this except to say: when people are beginner-beginners, they may not even have the words to explain to you why they didn’t follow something.

Be super patient, at least outwardly, and say stuff like “I can see that you’re confused. That’s okay! I go fast because I already understand. Do you want me to explain again? Did you understand part of what I said?”

Like, if you’re one of the stereotypical good at science bad at social stuff types, imagine that the kid you’re showing things to is you asking about some obscure aspect of manners, and think about that if they seem to take a while to get it.


Also some people are just shit teachers. Not talking about your dad obviously, I’ve never seen him, but some people don’t have the pedagogy God gave a field mouse.

Parents Explain More Often to Boys Than to Girls During Shared Scientific Thinking

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