Why Single Sex Education is Good for Girls

Forbes

This article is by Caroline Erisman, Head of School at Dana Hall, an all-girls independent day and boarding school for grades 6-12 in Wellesley, MA. 

While it was heartening to see that Maryam Mirzakhani, born and raised in Iran, just became the first woman to win a Fields Medal in mathematics, it is unfortunate that the breaking news in this story wasn’t necessarily her accomplishment, but that she was, in fact, a woman.The Boston Globe recently ran a story about this achievement, and raised a common question: why does our country lag behind others when it comes to encouraging female talent in mathematics, especially when research has shown that mathematical talent is fueled by nurture, not nature?  It is an interesting thought, especially given recent coverage of a studyhighlighting how top male professors in life-sciences tend to hire fewer women than female professors do in the same field.

Women make up 50 percent of the population and account for 59 percent of the college-educated entry-level workforce. Today, we can look up to some of the most powerful women in the nation: three Supreme Court justices, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to name a few. But the numbers are not as high as they should be when it comes to female leadership.  According to the Center for American Progress, women still only make up 14.6 percent of executive officers, 8.1 percent of top earners and a mere 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs. In Massachusetts, The Boston Club released a report showing that nearly 14 percent of the 100 largest public companies have women as directors, which is below the national average of 17 percent.

Despite these discouraging statistics, there is reason for optimism. Earlier this year an article in Forbes, “11 Reasons 2014 Will Be a Breakout Year for Women Entrepreneurs,” set forth evidence that explains why the numbers of women-owned firms have increased significantly in the last couple of years.  According to research, women are able to build better, more effective teams. Women cooperate and communicate effectively, which are both important qualities of a strong entrepreneur. And women are more proactively seeking visibility these days because they recognize the importance of public speaking, and are beginning to network more aggressively.

While this information is encouraging, it is meaningless unless we ensure that these small gains turn into larger wins. So how do we take what we know and make it mean something?  The answer begins with middle and secondary education for girls.

If girls are exposed to and schooled in these skills during middle and high school, they can refine them in college and be prepared to compete on a more even playing field at that level, and when launching a career. We need to cultivate this type of skills-based learning in our girls at an early age. To create female leaders, we need to raise them as leaders. We need to integrate courses into our curricula that go beyond basic English, math and science classes, such as ones geared towards the principles of engineering, or classes that explore the central role of science and technology in shaping human life, civilization and thought. We need to incorporate into our program business-oriented courses that teach our students at a young age how to succeed in the work force. Otherwise women are disadvantaged when they leave school and enter the employment market. We need to continue to foster all-girls programs that provide an atmosphere where girls excel as leaders without a male presence, because research shows that girls are more engaged, and exude more confidence and competitiveness in single-sex environments.

We as women have come so far, and have made such strides towards success and equality, but it is frustrating to know that in the 21st century, barriers continue to block us from the highest achievements. However, if together, we as educators, parents, and mentors, start early enough, and give young girls the right tools to succeed in the future through early education, then generations of girls to come will use these tools to break down the barriers that currently stand in our way.

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Siege by Taliban Strains Pakistani Girls’ Schools

The New York Times

Diego Ibarra Sanchez for The New York Times

Girls attending class in Nowshera. The Taliban see schools as symbols of Western decadence. More Photos »

By TAHA SIDDIQUI and 
Published: July 11, 2013

GHALANAI, Pakistan — The classroom in Ghalanai, an area nestled amid the mountains of Pakistan’s tribal belt, has the air of a military camp: a solitary tent pitched beside a bombed-out building, ringed by a high wall and protected by an armed gunman.

“We need to assure parents that it’s safe,” said Noor Haider, a local tribal leader who took on school security after Taliban militants bombed the school three years ago.

Extreme measures have become necessary as Taliban militants have pressed their violent campaign against girls’ education in northwestern Pakistan, bombing schools and terrifying pupils and parents.

More than 800 schools in the region have been attacked since 2009, according to government education authorities. But it was a vicious attack last October on an outspoken 15-year-old schoolgirl, Malala Yousafzai, that moved the issue to global prominence.

A Taliban hit man shot Ms. Yousafzai in the head in an attempt to silence her eloquent advocacy of education rights in Swat, a picturesque mountain valley that had been the scene of fierce fighting between the Taliban and the military.

After a medical evacuation to Britain, where war surgeons repaired her shattered skull, Ms. Yousafzai has made a startling recovery. In March, she resumed her schooling in Britain. And on Friday she is marking her 16th birthday by addressing a youth assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

That speech will be the first unmediated public appearance by a young woman who has become an international symbol of teenage bravery and educational activism. Ms. Yousafzai has won numerous honors and been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. News of her progress is assiduously followed across the world.

Back in Pakistan, however, the Taliban war on girls’ education continues unabated.

Ghalanai is the headquarters of Mohmand, a hilly tribal agency along the Afghan border where schools have been the targets of more than 100 attacks. Military check posts dot the hilltops, overlooking largely barren land. A female suicide bomber almost killed the leader of a religious party here this year.

The Pakistani Taliban see schools as symbols of both Western decadence and government authority, but their attacks are also intended to deny the Pakistani military the possibility of establishing temporary bases in the buildings. Typically, they strike in the dead of night, planting explosives that topple buildings and shred desks and blackboards.

The authorities have struggled to respond. At the Government Girls Primary School, Mr. Haider started the tent school with help from the United Nations. Otherwise, the government has done little, he said.

And the Taliban continue to exert pressure on parents and pupils. Night letters posted in the town describe girls’ schooling as a “product of the West” and order pious Muslims to shun the schools.

The siegelike situation has led some brave young women to follow Ms. Yousafzai’s example and defy the Taliban edicts. That was the case in Shabqadar, on the edge of Mohmand, where the Taliban decided to send a violent message in December.

Hira Gul, a 14-year-old pupil, was awakened by an explosion at midnight. The next morning she found a pile of rubble where her school had stood. The attack came as no surprise. “This has become very common in our area,” she said.

Her teacher, however, was profoundly affected. For days after the attack, the teacher, Fazeelat Bibi, visited the destroyed school every morning “to cry my heart out,” she said.

She has restarted class in her back garden. But attendance has fallen 75 percent, and Ms. Bibi has started wearing an all-covering burqa to work to avoid attracting the Taliban’s attention.

“Teaching here was never easy,” Ms. Bibi said.

She noted a prevailing conservative mind-set in which education is the preserve of boys. But she added, “Now it’s fear and growing extremism that are making parents keep children at home.”

The attacks on schools are mostly the work of the Pakistani Taliban, who see girls’ education as un-Islamic. The group earned global scorn and revulsion after it proudly claimed responsibility for the attack on Ms. Yousafzai — a claim that, at least briefly,helped rally Pakistani public opinion against the movement.

In Swat, which lies about 50 miles east of Mohmand, deeper in the mountains, some tribesmen have lionized Ms. Yousafzai as a teenage heroine who stood up to the Taliban where many others have faltered. Despite continuing threats, the girls’ school that she attended, which was run by her father, is open and running at full strength.

“We were not expecting the pupils to come back, but they did,” said the school administrator, Iqbal Khan.

Ms. Yousafzai, meanwhile, has resumed her schooling, at Edgbaston High School for Girls in Birmingham, England. Another teenage girl hurt in the October attack recently arrived in England to join her.

“They will not stop me,” Ms. Yousafzai recently wrote on her Facebook page. “I will get my education, if it is in home, school or any place.”

But Ms. Yousafzai’s plight has also provoked some contrary reactions in her own community, ranging from jealousy and suspicion to naked fear. An attempt to rename a government girls’ school after her failed after students loudly protested that, by associating with Ms. Yousafzai, they would make targets of themselves.

In the bazaar, some residents hint at resentment toward the global attention to Ms. Yousafzai. Some complain that it has overshadowed the bravery of other young women. Others indulge in muttered conspiracies about Western intervention.

Some have posted crude abuse on Ms. Yousafzai’s Facebook page alongside the praise for her campaign, calling her a “kanjri” — an Urdu word for a prostitute — or an “American agent.”

“Many people think it is a fabricated drama,” said Ihsanullah Khan, 35, a university lecturer in Swat’s main town, Mingora. “And so many other people have spoken out against militants, or sacrificed their lives. Why are they forgotten?”

Equally, though, the Taliban war on education has strengthened the resolve of Pakistani leaders who see no choice but to stand up against the militants’ cultural and religious dictates.

Mr. Haider, the tribal leader in Ghalanai, said the Taliban had recently kidnapped one of his relatives because he allowed the security forces to draw water from wells on the family’s land.

Since elections in May, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, bordering the tribal belt, has been governed by the party of Imran Khan, a charismatic politician who has a reputation for being soft on the Taliban, yet who has also increased the provincial education budget by 30 percent.

Yet the decision about whether to defy Taliban edicts on girls’ schooling often falls to individual families. The greatest resistance often comes from fearful fathers, said Ms. Bibi, the teacher in Shabqadar.

“They say they don’t want their daughters to become the next Malala,” she said.

Taha Siddiqui reported from Ghalanai, and Declan Walsh from London. Sana ul Haq contributed reporting from Swat, Pakistan.

Is pink Lego deterring girls from science?

The Telegraph

Lego’s range of pink toys for girls helps enforce a gender divide that sees boys performing better in science, a BBC television presenter and scientist has claimed.

Lego Friends.

Lego Friends

10 Mar 2013

Professor Alice Roberts, who has fronted programmes including Coast, Secrets from the Ice and Digging for Britain, lambasted sexist attitudes for deterring women from pursuing the subject and suggested the Danish toy was part of the problem.

Since girls are better represented in science elsewhere in the world, the reason why they lag behind in Britain must be “cultural”, she argued.

“The gender divide seems to be getting worse to me,” she told teachers and school leaders at an Education Innovation summit in Manchester.

“Lego has always been a good toy which teaches children about engineering. But Lego is now producing a range which it is says is for girls, which is completely pink and is about creating cakes.

“I think the problem is happening at a very young age, when the idea is instilled that there is a big difference between girls and boys, rather than at age 15.”

She attacked suggestions by education experts that schools could adopt “shopping-based” problems to encourage girls in maths and said the idea of using shopping and the colour pink to interest girls in science was “outrageous”.

“It goes back to a 1950s idea of what women should be like,” she said.

The Lego Friends range, to which Prof Roberts was believed to be referring, was criticized last year for fuelling gender stereotypes.

The line includes a set for girls with figures in pink, purple and green settings, a dream house, a splash pool and a beauty shop.

Lego said it was developed following requests from parents and girls for more realistic and detailed sets with brighter colours and role-playing opportunities.

A spokesman said: “We’ve always had Lego bricks that are pink and we’ve got a wide variety of different sets.

“We don’t say ‘this is for girls’. It’s up to the child or the parent to make the choice.”

Prof Roberts, an anatomist, physical anthropologist and science writer, said women also struggled to progress in scientific careers because of childcare.

“If you have a career break, it has an amazingly bad effect on people’s career,” she said.

Google Exec to Girls: The Technology Industry Needs You

Editor’s note: Susan Wojcicki, called by Forbes magazine “the most powerful woman in Advertising,” is senior vice president of advertising and commerce at Google, where she has worked since 1999. This open letter to the girls of the world is part of the “Girl Rising” project. CNN Films’ “Girl Rising” documents extraordinary girls and the power of education to change the world.

(CNN) — Dear Girls of the World,

The technology industry needs you.

Around the world, people are watching movies on laptops, buying goods online and connecting with friends and family through mobile devices. All of these experiences are powered by technology, created by people just like you.

Girls of the world, the tech industry is waiting for you. The skills you learn in your math and sciences classes today are the foundation for building technology that will touch nearly every aspect of our lives in the future — your future. If you invest in learning technical skills, soon you won’t just be consuming technology, you’ll be defining it, creating it and sharing it with people all over the world.

Susan Wojcicki

Susan Wojcicki

The tech industry is growing faster than nearly all other industries today. In fact, computer programming jobs are growing at two times the U.S. national average. And it’s still very early days. Google, for example, is only in its teenage years. The opportunities for a career in technology will only continue to grow as an additional 5 billion people around the world come online.

Yet despite being a ripe career field, the tech industry is losing women. In the United States, according to one report: “young women earned 37% of computer science degrees in 1985; today, the number has plummeted to 18%. Some 22% of software engineers at tech companies are women.” It’s a deficiency we see mirrored around the world.

If this trend continues, fewer women will have the skills necessary to participate in the tech sector. As a result, fewer women will hold leadership positions in tech, and we’ll miss out on the opportunity for women to shape the world around us. This isn’t a problem just for women, but for everyone. Innovation thrives on diversity, and we simply can’t afford for the future of technology not to represent women or people with different backgrounds and experiences.

That’s why it’s so important for tech leaders to reach out to girls with encouragement. We need to share our enthusiasm and show them all the amazing opportunities available today. Getting girls excited about technology isn’t just a job for educators, it’s a responsibility for all of us.

We also need to create more opportunities for girls to learn technical skills. We have a great start with programs such as theKhan Academy and Code.org that give people access to computer programming education. There are also fantastic local programs that connect girls with communities of other like-minded girls to learn together.

For example, Google supports a program called Girlstart that provides science, technology, engineering and mathematics education to girls through afterschool programs and camps. But there are also many girls out there struggling to find access to even the most basic education. The Google RISE Awards helps to bridge this gap by funding science and technology education for primary and secondary school students around the world. And initiatives such as Girl Rising put a spotlight on just how powerful access to education can be for young women.

For girls who don’t benefit from support early on, it’s also important to remember that it’s never too late to get started. I was finishing up my senior year of college, studying history and literature, when I decided to get into tech. I wondered if it was too late to change paths, but I decided to do it anyway. Years later, I joined a new startup — Google — and I’ve never looked back. For all the girls out there who think it’s too late to get into tech, know that it’s never too late to pursue a good opportunity, even if it means taking a different path.

So, people of the world, let’s help girls rise up in the field of technology and support them with the programs they need. If you’re in technology, talk to your daughters, nieces and friends about just how cool it is to work in tech. And we can all help them find internships, encourage them in their studies and foster their creative spirits.

The future of technology affects us all. Let’s all work together to build it.

— Susan Wojcicki

Invest in an Adolescent Girl

The Girl Effect is a solution to poverty. If we do our part, 600 million girls in the developing world will do the rest.

HERE ARE THREE SOLID REASONS WHY WE WANT YOU TO INVEST YOUR TIME, ENERGY AND CAPITAL IN AN ADOLESCENT GIRL

1. GIRLS ARE AGENTS OF CHANGE

They play a crucial role in solving the most persistent development problems facing the world today. By investing in their economic potential through education and by delaying child marriage and teen pregnancy, issues such as HIV and AIDS can be resolved and the cycle of poverty can be broken. To learn how a girl’s success is the world’s success, watch the girl effect films above.

2. PEOPLE ASSUME GIRLS ARE BEING REACHED

They’re not. The reality is that children’s programmes focus on 0-5 year-olds, youth programmes tend to focus on males and older groups, and women’s programmes don’t typically capture adolescent girls. Programmes that do reach girls rarely address the ones most at risk. To break the cycle of intergenerational poverty, programmes must be designed for, and measure the impact on, girls.

3. THE COST OF EXCLUDING GIRLS IS HIGH

In India, adolescent pregnancy results in nearly $10billion in lost potential income. In Uganda, 85 per cent of girls leave school early, resulting in $10billion in lost potential earnings. By delaying child marriage and early birth for one million girls, Bangladesh could potentially add $69billion to the national income over these girls’ lifetimes.

THE QUESTION ISN’T: ‘WHY GIRLS?’

THE QUESTION IS: ‘WHY WAIT?’

GET THE LATEST FACTS

In the Midst of a Warzone there’s an Afghani Skateboarding School for Girls

Gallery

In “don’t be a tourist” “Featured” “have you met” on November 27, 2012 at 1:21 pm Today I learned there’s a skateboarding school in Afghanistan where 40% of its students are female. In a part of the world where little girls are … Continue reading

GirlRising shown at Sacred Heart Greenwich, Thursday May 16

Gallery

8th grader, Chloe Frelinghuysen, as part of her Making History project, is pleased to invite you to a limited release screening of the exceptional film: GirlRISING EDUCATE GIRLS, CHANGE THE WORLD  a powerful, uplifting film Thursday, May 16th, 7pm Convent of … Continue reading