Beauty vs. Brains?

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By Lakhvir Kaur

It seems like lately we are back to the beauty versus brains saga, in which girls entering middle school feel forced to ask themselves, “‘Do I want to be smart in math, or do I want to be seen as attractive?’ ” says Jennifer Skaggs, a University of Kentucky education researcher and author of the June 2011 paper Making the Blind to See: Balancing STEM Identity With Gender Identity. These stereotypes about how a woman good in academics, is not attractive is not guiding women in the right direction. This is just creating insecurities among female teenagers because they feel like they have to pick between either being beautiful or studious. And with t-shirts like this one from Forever 21, it’s no wonder young women are seeing it as “cool” not to like math and science.

These pressures and stereotypes are leading us to a very bleak reality. According to a report released last month by the Department of Commerce, women only hold less than 25 percent of jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). So is Jennifer’s concern true? Are women affected by how they think men are seeing them based on their intelligence? The only way to improve the situation is that we need to stop and think about what we are telling young women today. Instead of telling them that it isn’t “cool” or attractive to be smart we need to show them that women can be both smart and beautiful. Women can do just as well as men in STEM areas, if not better. This means that women should explore more careers in science, math and technology because according to Christianne Corbett, a senior researcher for the American Association of University Women and co-author of the 2010 report “Why So Few?,”: “The growth of technology is driven by the people who are designing it. Without women at the design table, the interests of half the population will basically be ignored.”