Gender Mindset Bias: 3 Ways to Break the Cycle

New research shows that girls as young as 6-years-old believe boys are smarter. Researchers point to three distinct areas that may help break the cycle of gender mindset bias that begins in early childhood.

Gender Mindset Bias: 3 Ways to Break the CycleThrough several experiments done earlier this year, girls at age 6 and above repeatedly indicated that they think boys are smarter. The first activity required girls and boys to draw a picture of a “really really smart” person. Girls 6+ were more likely to draw a man than a woman.

The second activity asked girls and boys to select a game: One was for people who are “really really smart” and one was for people who try hard. Girls were more likely to pick the game for people who try hard.

This research included girls and boys ages 5-7. Interestingly, the girls and boys at age 5 did not show any gender mindset bias. It was at age six when the differentiation started.

But gender mindset bias clearly continues to impact girls well beyond childhood. Far fewer women graduate with degrees in science and engineering, two highly regarded fields that require greater than average intelligence.

Knowing that gender mindset bias begins by age 6 told researchers that children are influenced on this subject throughout their early childhood. They identified three areas that may be able to break the cycle and build more intellectual confidence among girls:

Placing emphasis on learning and effort rather than innate intelligence. Children often say, “I’m not good at this or that.” When those words come out of your child’s mouth, you have the opportunity to show your child she can become good at something if she works hard and puts in the effort. This goes hand-and-hand with the concept that she can do anything she wants if she puts her heart and mind in it.

Setting a good example for your children. When you put yourself or others down for their appearance or intelligence, you’re teaching this behavior to your children, especially daughters. Show your kids how smart mommy is every day, even if you don’t head out the door to work like daddy does. Also, dividing traditional household chores among all genders in your family can help break the gender mindset bias.

Experiencing positive female role models. In addition to being a role model to your children, teach them about amazing, accomplished women. Point them out when you see them on TV or meet them in person. Read about them in books. Go to events that spotlight powerful women. These are inspirational women your children can look up to as they develop their sense of self-worth.

Sources: WebMD, NY Times and The Atlantic