A girl who tries hard but lacks confidence can fade away. We don’t want her to fade, but to shine. We need to help her, early on, to overcome gender bias. To empty the “buckets of bias” that she encounters.
Jason Seats is an engineer, computer scientist, entrepreneur, venture capital advisor, and father. He categorizes gender biases into two buckets: biases that repel women from attempting STEAM paths and biases that cause them to be unsuccessful within these paths.
The first bucket involves messages and language. You can “empty” this bucket pretty easily, Seats says. “The nice thing about this bucket is that it’s ‘easyish’ to quantify and fix—correcting folks to say ‘women’ instead of ‘girls’ when referring to adults; making sure that the marketing material for the university engineering program doesn’t have all white males in the photos; teaching recruiters that job ads for ‘rockstar ninja programmers’ repel many women candidates.”
The second bucket is more insidious, unconscious and opaque, Seats says. “It has to do with individual behaviors and power structures,” he explains.
“People tend to choose other people to work with or promote who are most similar to them. Without correcting for that, a majority group in control turns into a super majority very quickly. A group of male executives running a company are extremely likely to put policies and patterns in place that will feel more familiar to people who are similar. It shouldn’t be surprising that a male-dominated company is easier for a man to navigate politically than it is for a woman.” Changing people and their behavior is hard work that takes a long time, says Seats.
He adds: “If you could reach into a young person’s brain and turn off the part that triggers anxiety over fitting in, or shame over being ridiculed or even the part that just notices that you are very different than everyone surrounding you, you’d basically be immune to a whole host of normal biological responses to social challenges, and as a result you’d do some pretty audacious things against long odds. I think some successful women are like that. There might be tons of things blocking their trajectory; they simply don’t notice them.”
This confident mindset, the baked-in Teflon fiber, is central to the entrepreneurial process, and it can be taught.I believe that entrepreneurial learning can not only spark girls’ interest in engineering, computer science, and technology, it can empower girls with the confidence to pursue their dreams, wherever they lead. I’ve seen this in the work my colleagues and I have done at VentureLab. We democratized our K-12 entrepreneurship programs to empower anyone to use entrepreneurship education as a tool for growing more confident, skillful girls.
I’d love to hear about your experiences with fitting in, or of dealing with the buckets of bias you encounter. What were the circumstances? What was the outcome? Thank you for sharing and be sure to check out our free curriculum.