More girls are interested in science if it's presented in stereotypically girly ways.

What Women Really Think
July 29 2011 11:09 AM

Making Science Just Girly Enough


I hate to admit it, but my daughter would absolutely be more interested in "learning why nail polish hardens and dries" than in something called "chemistry" or even "why neon lights work." Although I think if you framed it as "why rocket fuel ignites," you would still grab her 7-year-old attention. Gauging that attention is exactly what the University of Luxembourg's Sylvie Kerger was trying to do when she presented kids with real-world examples of various sciences in order to measure their interest in learning. Typical science examples, Kerger writes in the British Journal of Educational Psychology, are "embedded in masculine contexts." She thought putting a female-friendly spin around male-dominated scientific fields might increase the initial interest shown by girls in studying those subjects.

Wince-worthy as some of Kerger's examples were (isn't there something in the information technology area that girls are more interested in than "how to order clothes over the Internet?"), increasing the girl-friendly content did increase girls' interest, and interest matters. As Kathy Seal writes in Miller-McCune, "studies have shown that interest counts more than ability toward choosing a major or a career," which means that those initial curiosity-sparking questions might be more important than you'd think, leading a girl to take an elective or just bring the right attitude into a classroom experience.  But that girly presentation dampened the boys' interest—they'd rather learn "how the inside of the computer is structured." (Personally, so would I, but that may only be because I'm already quite well-versed in the "ordering clothes" component.) 

Kerger and her colleagues suggest that teachers offer choices between several "modules dealing with the same scientific concepts wrapped around various male- and female-friendly topics" without, ideally, expecting the classroom to split completely on gender lines. Once the interest is sparked, the researchers hope girls (maybe inspired by the Google Science Fair winners, all of whose projects had an arguably "girly" spin) will find their own ways to keep the  connection sustained.



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?