This column is by a Toronto high school student who will be taking college-level math and science courses. It was inspired by an article by Paige Shane, in which she asked, “Why isn’t there a high school math and science ministry?”
If all they had to do was wait around for the provincial government to give them a department, they would hardly miss it. Because in my school, we just had the women’s club at school!
The girls’ club was started in 1987, when the board introduced compulsory science and math.
The only requirements for joining were an interest in science and math and a desire to succeed in the school. The idea was that the best students would be encouraged to take the best classes they could. The other requirement was to stand out for being really, really good at something.
There are probably other schools that used the same method, or possibly a bit more advanced.
It worked. Many of my high school math, science and social studies teachers were fantastic, and all the women I know who were in the club have had great careers. In my entire elementary and secondary education, I never saw women who weren’t in the club at school. Every single year of junior high, my science teacher was a woman. They all have PhDs, and a handful of them have advanced degrees. Some of the women I studied with during high school were founders of a Nobel laureate organization and have jobs like theirs.
While there is some resistance to assigning a department to women (the argument is that they may have to do more), I think it would be unfair to the students to exclude women when there are so many great role models.
The women’s club would create more role models for girls to look up to, because I know there are some guys in the club who would be my role models — even if I only met some of them for a few months. I don’t see how their role models in their current adult lives differ from the ones I used to look up to.
There is a stereotype that people who don’t have mentors are not good at anything, but I would argue that when you look at all the women who ended up with PhDs, there were a lot of women who ended up in the club, too. Also, it’s important to include less than experienced women. Some women might not be comfortable speaking up in class; or they might not want to work with some of the boys who are in the club. Those girls who don’t play up to the stereotype are encouraged to add their voice.
Mentorship will do something like that. Mentors are important, but the women’s club will also help the women to make new friends. One example I had as a junior high school student was a girl who played the guitar in the club. She wanted to work with the boys, so she became the guitar and bass player in the club. After the music was over, she would take time with each girl to learn about their lives and find out what they wanted to pursue in life. It was amazing that in a short amount of time she became friends with everyone in the club.
I think it’s important to give the girls a university chance because even if they don’t stay there, they might end up going into a science or math career. While they don’t get to start with an advantage in gender, they will have the experience they need to get into the classroom.
Although there are people against the department for gender discrimination, I don’t see any evidence to back them up.