Friday, May 2, 2008

Problems in Gifted Identification: Girls

By the time a gifted young woman has graduated from college, she is likely to have lowered her estimate of her own intelligence, to have changed majors to a less challenging major, and to have lowered her career aspirations. She is much more likely than her gifted male peers to have abandoned her math and science interests, no matter how strong they once were, and is less likely to pursue graduate training in these fields. After college, she is more likely to follow her boyfriend or husband to his job than to have him follow her. She is the one most likely to have major child rearing responsibilities. And although it is now the norm, gifted women often combine work and family, gifted women continue to be more likely to give up full time work for part-time, and to give up leadership positions than are gifted men (Kerr, 1997.)

-Dr. Barbara Kerr, Gender and Genius

Kerr argues that young women are encourage to excel until they reach college. Beginning in college, gifted young women lose or abandon career aspirations. While this may be true and means that the situation for girls has significantly improved during primary and secondary education, other authors have cited many issues which affect girls.

While boys may be overlooked for gifted programs because of behavioral issues due to boredom, girls tend to be overlooked because of their passivity. Girls are more likely to do what the teacher asks and not complain if the material being studied is material which they have done years before.

This passivity does not mean that the girl is fine in an environment where she is waiting for everyone else. She may be more compelled by social pressures to wait or help others who are behind herself. If she doesn't wish to wait, she is viewed as pushy. Consequently, being gifted becomes a choice between being viewed as pushy and non-feminine or hiding ones gifts in order to fit societal expectations.

Girls often have serious doubts in their own abilities and have a strong sensitivity to the responibilities of others. Thus, as they get older, gifted women may have tend to give up on their dreams and goals in favor of caring for others, often times believing they are not really gifted or that they suffer from mistaken identity. Many gifted women suffer from Imposter Syndrome.

Therefore, even when girls are identified as gifted, they are still at high risk for not allowing their giftedness to play a role in their self-esteem and actualization.


Crimson Wife said...

SwitchedOnMom over at "The 'More' Child" blog had an interesting post on why girls are less likely to be identified as gifted. Boys are more likely to be gifted in math, which is the subject elementary school teachers tend to be least comfortable with. So when they run into a gifted math student, they're less confident in their own teaching ability and more likely to seek outside resources.

OverwhelmedMom said...

I'll take a look. Thanks!