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

Why So Few book imageThe
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

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.

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
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
my understanding, and
I thought, “I’m going to figure out what this kid knows, and I’m going
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
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
All the good information is here.