Seth Kahan on Leadership // Monday Morning Mojo
Why So Few?

From elementary through high school there are just about as many girls as boys taking the math and science courses that could prepare them for college, but women are much less likely than men to declare a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) major in college. Further, women's representation in the workforce is also skewed, except for the biological sciences. Why are so few women and girls pursuing STEM education? 

Why So Few book imageThe American Association of University Women pulled together bodies of research and identified eight specific findings that explain under representation of women and girls in these fields. They published a very readable book, Why So Few?, which is not only easy digest, but points the way toward solutions.

It is available for free download on their site along with PowerPoint presentations, videos, and the recent Capitol Hill briefing by Nobel Laureate Carol Greider with one of the co-authors, Christianne Corbett.

The information in this book so important that I assigned it as reading in my CEO Leaders Group here in Washington, D.C., an exclusive group of leaders I preside over that meets bimonthly for a year to generate personal and professional breakthroughs in performance.

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset
Carol Dweck, a social and developmental psychologist at Stanford University, is known for her work articulating the difference between a Fixed Mindset and a Growth Mindset. This is relevant to the issues we face with girls and women. It has application in many other topics of critical importance to leaders.  In the book, Dweck describes how she first became interested in the topic:

Since graduate school, I’ve been interested in how students cope with difficulty. Over the years it led me to understand that there were these whole frameworks that students brought to their achievement—that in one case made difficulty a terrible indictment but in the other case made difficulty a more exciting challenge.

In one of my very first studies where I was giving failure problems, this little boy rubbed his hands together, smacked his lips, and said, “I love a challenge.” And I thought, “Where is this kid from? Is he from another planet?” Either you cope with failure or you don’t cope with failure, but to love it? That was something that was beyond my understanding, and I thought, “I’m going to figure out what this kid knows, and I’m going to bottle it.” 

fixed vs growth mindsetsWhich kind of culture are you promolgating?

The beautiful thing about Why So Few? is that it does more than identify the problems, challenges, and obstacles. It provides concrete recommendations for counteracting each.

For example, the recommendations to challenge the development of a fixed mindset include:

1. Teach children that intellectual skills can be acquired: everytime we stretch our thinking, take on difficult challenges, and learn as a result, our brains build new connections - we become smarter.

2. Praise children for effort.
Express approval for the processes they use to generate breakthroughs.

3. Reconsider the label "gifted." 
It implies that great ability is bestowed. Rather than gifted and talented programs, consider using terms like challenge or advanced programs to shift importance to development, application, and growth.

4. Highlight the value of struggle.
Portray taking on challenges and the inevitable mistakes that result as highly regarded - show children how to turn setbacks into progress. Give the message that the willingness to embrace difficult tasks is a good thing. While it often generates blunders, these are valuable in the long run and pave the way to real achievement and growth.

The lessons in the book apply to many areas of leadership. Download or purchase your copy today - it's a stimulating and provocative read that has immediate application on many fronts, including (but not limited to) breaking down the barriers girls and women face today.

May 2011 eventJoin me May 12 & 13 in Wash, DC, for this very cool, innovative, and seriously fun event. These two days, hosted by Steve Denning and I, will be dedicated to remaking the management mindset; that is, reinventing business, governmentt, education, and health.
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