The girl-child needs real life examples of successful women
Posted Tuesday, January 22 2013 at 02:00
The academic disciplines that traditionally belonged to men continue to do so comfortably. While feminists still vent anger over gender stereotyping. There is no better way for women to shout “Yes we are weak’ than failing to compete on an academic level. The time for self-reflection and criticism is now for Uganda’s women.
Makerere University’s 63rd graduation is riddled with gender contexts. The number of women to men graduating with advanced degrees is low. Of the 60 PhD graduands for instance, only 11 are women.
Notably, the 11 are not represented in Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, Statistics, Physics, Civil Engineering, and Chemistry, areas known previously as a male-preserve.
This domination reinforces the findings of the 1980s studies by Benbow and Stanley (1980, 1981, and 1983) that there are sexual differences between gifted boys and girls in solving mathematical problems. The idea that boys were better than girls in mathematics shocked liberal feminists who inspired several studies over the years like the one done in 2004 by Ivy and Backlund, from a social science point of view.
Such research concluded that cognitive studies which found boys to be better than girls at math were methodologically fraud as they did not put into consideration the social and environmental cues the girls encountered.
Regardless, the 63rd graduation does not clearly stress the social scientists’ point. The total of masters degree students graduating is 827 for men and 493 for women. Major differences can be further identified, beside men surpassing women by almost half, in gender preference of courses.
The Master of Arts in Gender, for example, has seven students all of whom are female. The Master of Arts in Counselling has five female and one male student. On the other hand, Master of Civil Engineering has 10 male and no female students.
The academic disciplines that traditionally belonged to men continue to do so comfortably. While feminists still vent anger over gender stereotyping, there is no better way for women to shout “Yes We Are Weak’ than failing to compete on an academic level. The time for self-reflection and criticism is now for Uganda’s women.
If it is true that sex typing, the acquisition of sex-appropriate preferences, skills, personality attributes, behaviours, and self-concepts, emerges from the socially constructed meaning, as the Social Learning Theorists have proposed, then the young girl will pick attitudes and behaviour towards life from the ladies in her (mediated) surroundings.
Women themselves must make sacrifices and get as many advanced degrees as possible. This way, the girl-child may have examples needed to create a dream path in her head, based on real aspirations. Failure to go back to school can only communicate that after her first degree, a woman is only fit for marriage and child-bearing. Congruent of the fact that fewer opportunities are actually given to women in Uganda than elsewhere, for example Europe or Canada, there is great need to criticise the ‘propertied woman’ who thinks an advanced degree is “too hard” or “tiresome”.
Such an attitude is demonstrated in other sectors like ICT. While studying the gratification of male and female users of technology, a group of Indian researchers led by Pradeep Krishnatry in 2009 noted that men not only have easy access to technology, but also have tended to use and appropriate it. Women on the other hand don’t find it attractive.
Since gender differences come from internalised knowledge of how society treats the male or female, such easy access and use of technology by men tends by default to leave out girls in the process of learning, in order to be accepted into society as girls. No amount of conferences or TV programmes are better than giving an example to a teenage girl of an accomplished woman. The trick is in making her envy the person as opposed to telling her.
Mr Semujju is a Master of Arts in Journalism and Communication graduand.