There is no neurological difference between the brains of boys and those of girls.
Unfortunately, there is a somewhat prevalent idea that girls are limited in many of their abilities or are neurologically different to boys, ultimately leading them to be poorer at Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics ( STEM ) subjects.
This idea can be heard from academics such as Lawrence Summers who said that:
“one reason the there are fewer women than men in science and engineering professorships might be that fewer women than men have the very high levels of ‘intrinsic aptitude’ that such jobs require”.
Or even comments from Michaela Strachan, a wildlife TV show presenter, who encouraged a generation o girls to pursue ambitions in biology and ecology, saying that:
“men are wired differently, making it easier for them to learn the names and categories of animal species”.
Furthermore, it is often thought that girls require different teaching styles to achieve in these subjects.
In 2013, a list was published concerning “how to nurture your daughter’s abilities”, which mentioned ho girls begin processing information on the brain’s left or language side ( suggesting that girls should read maths problems aloud ), girls are more responsive to colour, that as girls get older they retain their mathematical and scientific abilities when applied to domestic scenarios and girls often hate science but love medicine.
Though these have been popular opinions in the past, there is no neurological difference between the brains of boys and those of girls, only individual capabilities regardless of gender and stereotypical characteristics that have been absorbed through the environment.
It is shown that these negative comments and low expectations for girls in these subjects are harming their abilities to perform, this is known as Stereotype Threat.
In fact, in most countries where there is a large amount of exposure to gender stereotyping ( such as in the UK or Turkey ), girls under-perform in maths in comparison to boys.
But, in countries that offer more equal opportunities and resources for men and women ( such as Iceland, Sweden and Norway ), the gender gap between STEM subject performance is significantly reduced.
These ideas of brain functioning differences between boys and girls are false; especially in the way they process information and colour, any differences observed are the result of personal factors and the per-conceived idea of stereotypes effecting perception of the child’s ability.
Moreover, the factors contributing towards the difference in performance between girls and boys in STEM subjects are the result of gender stereotypes effecting the self-perception of girls, causing them to doubt their abilities and under-perform.
These stereotypes not only reinforcing old gender roles, such as “domestic scenarios” and girls hating science but love caring profession of medicine, but they also contribute to a society where girls don’t succeed because they have been taught not to.
What can we do?
By actively trying to address inequality in our society, we will be creating a nurturing environment for maximum potential; This includes limiting ( or eradicating ) the exposure of children to gender stereotypes and maximising their exposure to equal opportunities.