Academic achievement does not buoy girls from the confidence crisis that begins in 5th grade. This insight was gleaned at last week's roundtable discussion at The Ohio State University. Hosted by Dr. Joyce Chen, an associate professor with Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), the event called Creating Confident Girls, Cultivating Women Who Lead, brought together groups 50 businesses and organizations around Central Ohio to discuss findings from The Girls’ Index—a groundbreaking study released last year by Columbus nonprofit ROX (Ruling Our eXperiences).
Chen led the dicussion of ten faculty and staff from a cross section of Ohio State, including the Sustainable and Resilent Economy Program, the Institutute for Population Control, Health Sciences Library, Comparative Studies, Engineering Education, Sociology, and CFAES's School of Natural Resources, Veterinary Clinical Services, and the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics.
“This discussion is vital and especially important in an educational setting,” said Chen. “We have a key role to play in enacting institutional change to address gender parity and cultivate the next generation of female leaders.”
Participants were surprised with many of the study findings, especially that girls feel they need confidence to be successful yet confidence in girls declines sharply from 5th to 9th grade and 33% of girls surveyed said they were afraid to be leaders because they did not want to be perceived as “bossy”. The group used this statsitic as a jumping off point and then focused on identifying ways Ohio State worked to to get more women into leadership and better prepare female students for leadership roles after graduation.
Tactics for supporting female students and collegues in the classroom and in meetings were shared. One faculty member said she echoed what women said in meetings and in classrooms to ensure they were heard. Another shared the practice of reaching out to female undergrad students to see if they had experienced any micro aggressions or discrimination issues. Then she had them write their experiences on cards and shared them with male students in another class who were shocked and saddened by details of commonplace and negative experiences on campus.
A few Ohio State initiatives were heralded as a good start to addressing gender disparity: The Women's Place's Advocates and Allies Program that trains male faculty to be allies and the inclusion of a general education course on race, ethnicity and gender. Moldules of this course are being built into other courses and used as a methodology for teaching.
"This conversation was a good starting point is to understand why women are making the professional choices that they do and how that stems from their early experiences as girls in education and leadership," said Chen.
Chen recently was award a Coca-Cola Critical Difference for Women Research Grant to study the gender pay gap at The Ohio State University.