Teachers should remain observant of the various ways that their own biases could affect their pedagogical methods in their teaching of both genders. They must equally contend with other influences apart from themselves. A lot of times, parents and other family members hold their female relatives back from being all that they desire to be.


“Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong…it is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, not as two opposing sets of ideas.” ― Emma Watson

When I was growing up in the 1980s and in the ’90s, there were so many stereotypes about what girls were supposed to be and what boys, on the other hand, ought to be. I remember the assumption that boys were superior in intellect to girls because girls were purportedly flighty minded. Boys were deigned to naturally be able to focus on science and maths challenges for a long time. As a child, these differences weren’t apparent until I got closer to my teenage years. Then it was as though my intellect wasn’t celebrated but was something to downplay; it was of more value to be pretty. This notion is one I have heard reiterated over and again by lots of girls across Nigeria. This apparent gender gap has major implications for education, as it has been ongoing.
With all of the research refuting the fallacy that women aren’t good in STEM, there is still a gender gap. The American Psychological Association (APA) has presented that the gender gap in mathematics ability has reduced in the last 30 years. The APA retrieved data that showed that there was a ratio of 13 boys to 1 girl in the top percentile in 1983. In 2007, that chasm has contracted to between 2.8 girls to 4 boys in the top percentile.

Through the examination of the data, a progressive shift in female students’ maths aptitude can be seen to be occurring, which the APA ascribes to shifting cultural attitudes that are more accepting of female STEM students.

This shows what a lot of us know to be true. Regrettably, opinions of some parents and teachers buttress the stereotype that STEM is for boys, and girls should focus on other more traditionally acceptable subjects. Fortunately, there are ways that teachers can battle this fallacy.

We should work on acquiring ways of cultivating a growth-mindset in students who feel incompetent about STEM. And, we should also show students that the barriers to their success are surmountable and they will feel differently about STEM.


Cultivate the Child, Attack the Gap

The predisposition to nurture boys to pursue STEM might not be deliberate, in fact teachers, for the most part, aren’t aware of the biases that they have and exhibit; such as the way they tell girls to focus on more gender-suitable coursework. We should work on acquiring ways of cultivating a growth-mindset in students who feel incompetent about STEM. And, we should also show students that the barriers to their success are surmountable and they will feel differently about STEM.

Work On Parents Becoming Supportive

Teachers should remain observant of the various ways that their own biases could affect their pedagogical methods in their teaching of both genders. They must equally contend with other influences apart from themselves. A lot of times, parents and other family members hold their female relatives back from being all that they desire to be.

When they observe their female students manifesting negative attitudes about STEM, after they have ensured that the class environment, and classmate relationships are positive ones, teachers can then consider that parents could be hampering their students’ success. As such, they should try meeting parents to discuss their children’s educational growth.

With all of this, there is hope. The Pew Research Group put a report together that showed that in 2012, 71 per cent of female students registered in college immediately after high-school graduation, in comparison to 61 per cent of male students. This is a ray of hope about the gender gap in STEM being closed eventually.

Adetola Salau, Carismalife4U@gmail.com, an advocate of STEM education, public speaker, author, and social entrepreneur, is passionate about education reform.