Learning To Be Brave: Gender Socialization Of Risk-Taking
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Politics and Activism

Learning To Be Brave: Gender Socialization Of Risk-Taking

Women are falling behind in the professional world because girls play patty cake while boys climb the jungle gym

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Learning To Be Brave: Gender Socialization Of Risk-Taking
Sportsphoto/Allstar

When was the last time you risked failure? If you are a male, you probably rolled the dice pretty recently. Yet with females, it may have been a long while.

Reshma Saujani, a 40-year-old female lawyer said, "I was 33 years oldand it was the first time in my entire lifethat I had done something that was truly brave." She was speaking of when she ran for Congress and confesses this to a full audience at her recent TED talk, posted March 7 on TED's Facebook page, just in time for International Women's Day, March 8.

She argued boys are raised to be brave and perceive failure as the ultimate challenge and motivator. Meanwhile, girls are raised to be cautious, do their best and never fail. She described the indoctrination of children perfectly: "[Girls are] taught to smile pretty,play it safe, get all A's.Boys, on the other hand, are taught to play rough, swing high,crawl to the top of the monkey bars and then just jump off headfirst." Saujani's goal, with her establishment of Girls Who Code, an organization that works with young females to teach computer coding, is to change the way girls are taught to avoid failure.

After watching Saujani's video, I realized she perfectly explained the root of all the mental and emotional anguish I have experienced in my education and professional life. I always thought it was just my perfectionist personality, but now I realize that no matter how "carefree" a girl may seem, females feel pressure to be perfect, while boys just don't.

Saujani mentioned females will purposely pick career paths which they know they will excel in. When I was applying to colleges, I declared a major in history and a minor in secondary education. I decided that instead of taking different classes and finding my interests, I would follow what I enjoyed in high school and conform to a career I knew I would be perfect at: teaching high school in my hometown. While I do still consider teaching as a secondary career, I realize now that my career decision was exactly what Saujani discussed. While I often had thoughts along the lines of "Is that really going to be all I do with my life?" and "Should I be aiming higher?", I always reasoned the queries away. I pushed them out because when I thought of failing at another career, suddenly being a high school teacher in my hometown was much more appealing and, more importantly, safe.

Saujani brought up an important statistic in her talk. "An HP report found that men will apply for a jobif they meet only 60 percent of the qualifications,but women...will applyonly if they meet 100 percent of the qualifications," she said. I did not doubt this statistic for one second. Even when I meet 100 percent of the requirements, sometimes I still don't apply because I feel my odds are not good enough against the competition. This shows the lack of confidence women have because they feel the need to be perfect and this gender socialization of girls is causing crippling effects in their adult lives. It also causes girls to be more susceptible to developing anxiety disorders, considering that a lack of confidence leads to doubts and the expectation of perfection leads to worries of being insufficient. Women will always be disadvantaged if this trend of socializing our children continues.

I grew up on a farm, which forced my sister and me to take on very different lives than most girls we went to school with. We were taught to think outside the box when we faced an obstacle, whether that be trying to move a heavy tree our dad cut to chop firewood or getting our horses to listen despite us being fractions of their size. Our father taught us we could be just as good (or better) than boys at shooting, cattle roping (or, in our case, goats) and anything else we wanted to do. Yet, I still have the problems Saujani explained when it comes to my career and education. I can handle the home-oriented tasks because our parents taught us to view them as little challenges and puzzles, yet anything concerning academic or career tasks are saturated in anxiety and self-doubt.

This is the motivation behind Saujani's Girls Who Code that is beautifully changing the stigma women have against themselves in the professional world. She is tackling the challenges in fields that have a disproportionate ratio of men to women with teaching girls how to code. Saujani's organization is effective not only because it teaches coding and teaches girls they don't need to strive to be perfect, but also because it teaches girls that they can be brave and successful. In honor of International Women's Day, we should applaud Saujani for her incredible efforts and pass the lesson along.

Take a class that isn't an "easy A" for you, try a new hobby you were always too scared of failing at and encourage young girls to be whatever they want to be, especially if that might mean being imperfect.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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