Girls Are More Likely To Talk About School Successes, But Where Does That Enthusiasm Go?

It's easy to accidentally focus on sexism and how it keeps women down, but little girls — before they become world-hardened — are a fountain of inspiration. New research finds another aspect of their awesomeness: girls are more likely to talk about school successes than are boys. Researchers from Hanover College and the University of Louisville studied midwestern children and came to this somewhat counter-intuitive conclusion. After all, it also seems girls are usually taught to be overly modest, which would run against any "bragging." So, why are girls more likely to share?

Basically, girls share more because they believe that success in school is a good thing, and that they'll be socially rewarded for it. Girls think that talking about their academic successes will build friendships, and this may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Boys seem to share less, because on average, they think it's uncool to be good at school, and would prefer to become the class clown or something (even if they really are smart). Because the trend starts as early as mid-childhood, there's a ton of time for these differences to affect motivation and actual school performance.

This fits right in with the emerging picture that girls are doing better in terms of academic outcomes than boys, as a group. This trend continues all the way through post-secondary education, when young women enroll in college (and graduate) at a higher rate than young men. Part of the explanation is that girls tend to be better at self-regulation than boys, which allows them to set academic goals, formulate a plan, and work to achieve them. Girls find academic environments easier to navigate than boys, whose higher energy levels and impulsiveness cause behavioral problems (possibly contributing to the discriminatory lower grades that teachers often assign boys, too).

Some aspects of the gender schooling gap are troubling, to be sure. Especially as success in the new knowledge economy depends more on educational attainment and credentials and less on physical strength, boys who can't or won't do schoolwork put themselves at a disadvantage for life.

There are new problems for females once we get past school age, though, and what looks like normal pride in girls turns into perceived arrogance and bossiness in adult women. If women seem less proud of their accomplishments than they were as girls, it might just be a rational response to messed up standards they face in the workplace. For instance, women get worse performance reviews than men — but these contain even contradictory assessments, like that you're "bossy" if you're assertive, but undeserving of promotion if you're not.

Lagging behind on the career track (even if that promotion is well-deserved) can turn formerly proud little girls into imposter syndrome victims. I would suggest that you channel your inner schoolgirl. You can't singlehandedly stop egregious workplace sexism, but you can learn to be proud of your accomplishments in a tasteful, mature way. Whether others respond appropriately to that or not, you'll feel better about yourself at the end of the day regardless.

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