Teach Your Girls To Tinker

11:02 AM Posted by Dr. Janet Rose

Girls now surpass boys in nearly every measure of academic success.Yet, even as girls open new gender gaps by outpacing their male peers in most subjects, men still receive roughly 77 percent of the bachelor’s degrees awarded in engineering and 85 percent of those in computer science.

Why aren’t girls choosing to enter these critical fields of the future? A Study reviewed in Education Week (November 11,2009) entitled "Teaching Girls To Tinker" indicates that the number of females choosing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is low because girls are not encouraged to "tinker".

This article states that boys see computers as toys interesting in their own right, while girls see them as tools for accomplishing tasks. By approaching computers and other mechanical devices as toys, children learn how they function from the inside out.

When tinkering with programming, they develop an intuitive understanding of how computers work. When tinkering with machines, they develop their mechanical reasoning, an arena of cognitive skill that boasts one of the largest of all gender gaps.

For some reason, parents and teachers do not encourage girls to "tinker".

Studies show that we respond differently to boys by encouraging them to find out how things work. We have a tendency to interve rapidly with girls, sending the message to our girls that they should be afraid of doubt, investigation, and experimentation—all of the essential elements of tinkering.

Girls have made fantastic academic gains in the past 15 years, but they are still sorely underrepresented in engineering and computer science. To engage in these critical fields, girls need compelling role models and an appreciation for the collaborative nature and human applications of engineering and computing.

And, from their earliest days, girls need to tinker.