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Sunday, May 8, 2011

See Jane Soar

Women make up half the world's population but in most countries they are only awakening to their potential. When that potential is 
fully released we will see a much different and better world. Rie

For the two decades before I retired, I taught mostly university students taking third and fourth year courses in physical chemistry. When I talked to the girls who did exceptionally well about going on with their studies in math or science, I found that most of them had no idea of their own abilities and were not even considering further studies because they didn’t think they were good enough to go further. It was a different story with the boys – they were confident and sometimes had an exaggerated idea of their own abilities.

As I came to retirement age, I realized it was like a recurring theme - girls too often underestimating their potential. That was just my opinion but one I held so strongly that I went to the President of the University, told him that I wanted to do a study to find out how girls stood up academically. I asked him for permission to have a printout of the records of student Grade Point Averages [GPA’s] for all courses in all faculties over the last 10 years. It sounded innocuous enough and he readily agreed, not perhaps realizing that the information would fill 28 document boxes with the raw data. I had a student do the preliminary hackwork, and as I analyzed the figures, they revealed an unexpected and absolutely astounding picture.

I had in no way set out to document the superiority of one gender over another – my goal was just to show young women that they were just as good as most of the boys. However, by the very nature of the exercise, the academic test results of men and women were of necessity compared. The data showed that in every single course - be it in Arts, Science, or Math - the girls on average consistently made better grades than boys.

The gap between their scores was in most cases narrowing by the final year and there were a few cased when the boys on average had surpassed the girls in one year. I rationalized it was because girls mature at a younger age and the boys were catching up. Apparently our brains continue to mature until we are around 25 and there is no doubt about it that men and women have different approaches to life and their work. My observation is that women in general tend to take less risk and can multitask easily whereas men in general are more single minded and less conservative in their approach.

The big overall message is that the evidence in this study and others like it, shows that women should have every confidence in their potential to pursue whatever career they aspire to whether it be in the traditional fields for women or those for which they may have been told they are not suited - like math, physics or chemistry.

Spread the word. Rie

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