"I was afraid of failure; I was afraid of embarrassment; and I was ultimately unable to be brave. "
From a young age, girls are conditioned to be perfect.
We are taught to play it safe– to maintain good grades, to please teachers, and to be soft-spoken and agreeable in order to be liked. We are taught to stay on a linear, traditional career path.
On the other hand, boys are taught to be brave. As children, they are encouraged to be adventurous. As students and adults, boys take leaps into uncharted territories, and venture into unique careers.
Girls are held back by their desire for perfection. Boys are taught to explore and quickly recover from failures. Girls tend to overthink and obsessively analyze their actions, from the minute wording of an email to participation in a classroom or professional setting.
As a rising senior in high school and a girl interested in STEM, I had a plethora of opportunities to reflect on this “perfection or bust” mentality seen in many girls. In fierce classroom debates, I drafted in my notebook the perfect counterclaims, revising multiple times to ensure that my point came across clearly. I chose not to try out for my school’s badminton team, sure that I would not land a spot because I felt I couldn’t perfect my game– so why bother trying? In my computer science class, I faced impostor syndrome as I watched boys rapidly raising their hands, although many times their responses were wrong. In other words, I was afraid of failure; I was afraid of embarrassment; and I was ultimately unable to be brave.
Moreover, this mentality of perfection that girls strive for since childhood has a significant impact on our ability to succeed in professional settings. When it comes to science, for example, women are in the minority. Less than 30 percent of the world’s researchers are women. Female researchers also receive less grant money than their male counterparts: on average, their male coworkers are awarded with $41,000 more. This gender inequality is even apparent in children; when asked to draw a scientist, only 3 in 10 children drew a woman. On screen, the majority of mathematicians, scientists, and engineers are played by men–only 12 percent of characters in movies with STEM jobs are women.
Women are continually harassed, doubted, and discriminated against. Katie Bouman, the young woman who was credited for using interferometry to generate the first image of a black hole in 2019, faced multiple unfounded accusations that her achievement belonged to her white male coworker, Andrew Chael. Although Chael defended Bouman’s work, many similar instances continue to occur.
In order to lessen gender discrimination and inequality, it is important to encourage young girls to explore fields that they may not at first excel in. Young girls must break this mold of perfection and begin to be fearless.
Johnny Wood, Senior Writer. “How Many Women Work in STEM?” World Economic Forum, www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/02/stem-gender-inequality-researchers-bias/.