Only Daughters to Work?

Menstuff® has compiled the following information on the original Ms. Foundation program for daughters only. Click here for the revised program starting in 2003 which finally includes sons.

 Why "Take Our Daughters To Work Day"? Facts About Boys And Girls

Take Our Daughters to Work Day, first organized by the Ms. Foundation in 1993, has become an annual event. While some companies, often at the behest of parents, have included boys, many activists are resisting these efforts, arguing that the event was intended to deal with the crisis in girls' self-esteem, to counteract the inadequate attention girls are getting in schools and encourage them to develop career aspirations.

Introducing children to the workplace and broadening their horizons are worthy goals. However, the Women's Freedom Network believes that the current format of Take Our Daughters to Work distorts the facts and fosters gender divisiveness. The girls-as-victims rhetoric underestimates not only the strides girls and young women have made but the problems facing boys and young men:

Today, more boys than girls drop out of high school and fewer boys go to college. In 1991, 54 percent of bachelor's and master's degrees went to women, including 47 percent of all undergraduate business degrees and 51 percent of the degrees in life sciences.

In 1993, freshman women were more likely than their male peers to plan to seek advanced degrees.

Nearly 63 percent of bachelor's degrees awarded to African-Americans in 1991 went to women. In the early 1990s, college attendance fell for black men but rose for black women.

In K-12, boys are 50 percent more likely to repeat a grade and make up over two-third of students in special education. Girls are more involved in academic clubs, student government, and all extracurricular activities except varsity sports, where they are also rapidly closing the gap.

Girls are catching up with boys in math and science. On the 1996 National Assessment of Educational Progress math tests, eighth- and twelfth-grade girls did as well as boys. Reversing earlier patterns, girls are now more likely than boys to take geometry, algebra, and chemistry in high school and equally likely to take trigonometry and calculus. Almost half of students in math and science magnet schools are girls, as are 40 percent of Westinghouse Science Talent Search winners.

Girls outperform boys by a substantial margin in reading and especially writing. In 1995, Science magazine warned that this trend could seriously damage young men's job opportunities in the Information Age.

While girls are more vulnerable than boys to depression and eating disorders, teenage boys are five times more likely than girls to commit suicide and are more likely to abuse drugs and to be victims of violence. In Department of Education surveys, more boys than girls say that they do not feel safe at school.

Do girls receive less attention in the classroom and less encouragement to speak out? Non-partisan research shows that these differences are either non-existent or far smaller than critics of sexism in school claim. For instance, studies do not support allegations that girls get less constructive attention from teachers, that girls are called on less often, or that teachers give boys more time to answer before moving on.

According to the 1985 book "Gender Influences in Classroom Interaction," research in elementary school classrooms shows that teachers give more attention to boys -- but this extra attention "tends to be negative ... and disciplinary." One study in the book found that boys initiated 58% of teacher-student interactions in a junior high school science class; but they were *less* likely than girls to get feedback, and girls were called on 40% more. In the same volume, University of Michigan scholars Jacquelynne Eccles and Phyllis Blumenfeld report that in math classes, 39% of teachers' comments were to boys, 29% to girls and the rest to mixed groups; the imbalance was due mainly to boys being scolded, even when they did not misbehave more. The study also showed that negative attention from teachers is directed primarily to low-achieving boys, while high-achieving girls have a disproportionate share of positive interactions with teachers.

Boys appear to be more likely to call out answers in class. There is no evidence, however, that boys' call-outs are accepted while girls are told to "raise your hand if you want to speak," as the American Association of University Women claims in its 1992 report "How Schools Shortchange Girls."

In the 1990 report "Shortchanging Girls, Shortchanging America," the AAUW also popularized the claim that girls' (but not boys') self-esteem and self-confidence plummet in adolescence. This claim was based on the findings of a poll commissioned by the AAUW. However, a review of over thirty academic studies conducted in the 1980s and early 1990s shows a very different picture. While boys in some samples have slightly higher self-esteem scores, none show a difference greater than 4 to 6 percentage points, compared to 70% in the AAUW study. Nor is there evidence of the gap growing in adolescence. In one study, in fact, girls scored lower in middle school but had a strong edge in junior high school. Many other researchers found no gender differences, or even a female advantage.

It is also worth noting that the 1990 poll of children commissioned by the AAUW had many findings which contradict the notion of "shortchanged girls":

Asked, "Who do teachers think are smarter?", 81 percent of the girls and 69 percent of the boys replied "girls." Nearly 60 percent believed teachers paid more attention to girls and called on them more.

As many girls as boys at all grade levels said that teachers listened to them and that they liked to ask and answer questions in class. Nor was there any difference in boys' and girls' perceptions of how often teachers called on them.

Our young people face many serious problems today. These problems, however, affect both sexes and in some cases affect boys more. A 1996 study by prominent education researcher Valerie Lee, commissioned by the AAUW but released without fan-fare, found that gender differences among eighth-graders were minor and as likely to favor girls as boys, and that girls were ahead on such key measures of academic engagement as school attendance and class preparedness (Valerie E. Lee, Xianglei Chen, and Becky A. Smerdon, "The Influence of School Climate on Gender Differences in the Achievement and Engagement of Young Adolescents"; Washington, D.C.: American Association of University Women Educational Foundation, 1996).

American girls today have unprecedented opportunities. While they need more encouragement to pursue nontraditional careers, they do not need to be taught to regard themselves as victims, or boys as the enemy. Nor are they helped by the message that they cannot hold their own at events that include boys.

We applaud companies which have opened workplace events to both sexes. We urge the media, in their coverage of this day, to avoid uncritical acceptance of activists' claims of bias against girls and to consider the facts carefully and objectively.

For further information please contact: Rita Simon 202.885.2965 Professor, American University, President, WFN or Cathy Young 908.706.0723 Columnist, Detroit News, Vice President, WFN or Christina Hoff Sommers e-mail to Author, Who Stole Feminism? Board member, WFN, or Judith Kleinfeld 907.474.7211

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