• “the trouble with bright girls”…and smart women

    Jane WurwandWhen I get together with my students, skin therapists, people in the Dermalogica tribe, our team for FITE, or just friends and family, the conversation pretty quickly gets around to the political conditions under which women live around the world.

    In some places, like Los Angeles, the conditions are pretty good. Opportunities abound. Justice and equality are defended.

    And still, some women still seem to choose to underachieve. The reasons may be subtle and mysterious.

    Heidi Grant Halvorson, author of books including “SUCCEED: How We Can Reach Our Goals“, offers a really interesting take on why girls may not push themselves as relentlessly as boys. (Some do—but many do not.)

    Halvorson isn’t saying that girls and women are lazy, but she is saying that we avoid challenges, play it safe, and set goals which are easy for us to reach. Wait a minute, that DOES sound lazy.

    Halvorson’s research compares the behaviors of girls and boys with high IQs – kids who are getting straight A’s in school. In her essay, “The Trouble with Bright Girls,” Halvorson says the higher a girl’s IQ, the more likely she is to throw in the towel when the going gets tough.

    Girls and women seem more willing to go with the idea that they are just naturally, innately good at some things, but not good at others. And that our aptitudes – our capabilities to achieve – cannot be changed.

    kids in a huddleIn this study, boys generally met challenge and flat-out failure with more confidence. Halvorson suggests that this is because boys, especially little boys, are by their hormonal nature, wigglier, louder, more impulsive, more physical, clumsier, rowdier and more easily distracted than their female counterparts.

    So, boys become accustomed to being scolded, reprimanded, restrained, corrected, and told to sit still, concentrate, and try harder!

    Girls, on the other hand, often are more poised, contained, and mature, both physically and socially. Girls fight less than boys. Girls typically “make less trouble” and disrupt the classroom less than boys do. As a result, little girls probably get yelled at less frequently than little boys.

    Does our feminine self-control early in life – some would call this passivity – work against us?

    Boys and men may handle critique better because of these differences. Boys typically don’t personalize or internalize what people say the way girls do. They may be better-prepared to roll with the punches, shake it off, and push on. And this may be a window into why men achieve more, and more easily, than women who are otherwise their peers in every way.

    This is why I am obsessed with the idea of resiliency, especially for women entrepreneurs. A major part of the entrepreneurial challenge is indeed stepping outside of the comfort-zone. Learning to bounce back with even MORE energy and sense of adventure after we’ve been knocked down.

    So should we encourage our daughters – and our sisters, mothers – to speak up, act up, rock the boat, rock the house, make waves, make mistakes, even make enemies, rather than being so nice?

    I say, if not now, when?


    • frances Says:

      what a wonderful insight! my views? i can see what ur saying and gave the notion thaught. i think it is other factors that make us succeed.boys due to hormornes are more roudy etc i agree and have to be reprimanded in order for them to conform but i beieve that is other parenting skills that make any child succeed in life. such as were the parents a success in their life? how did the parents hande probems etc, behavour is defo learned this has been proven,

      April 27, 2011 at 8:27 pm
    • Elizabeth Rago Says:

      I am a trouble maker and always have been. This positive attribute is flooding through my daughter (and my son) and I couldn’t be happier b/c my persistent drive has brought me to start my own business during a time of complete economic uncertainty. I wouldn’t take no for an answer when friends and family told me I could never start my own business when the world was going south.

      I look forward to reading Halvorson’s book! It is so important to encourage women (most of all from a young age) to get creative in the face of criticism, not take “no” for an answer and pick themselves up when they fall! Thank you for your encouraging words and spreading the word that it is okay to disrupt the world to follow your passion!

      April 27, 2011 at 9:52 pm

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