What girls hear when they're called pretty

Last updated 15:21 26/06/2014

GIRLS CAN DO ANYTHING: 'Isn't it time we told her she's pretty brilliant, too?'

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A US advertisement has highlighted the impact of gender stereotyping on young women, citing statistics by the (American) National Science Foundation that reveal that 66 per cent of 4th grade girls say they enjoy science and math, but only 18 per cent of all university engineering majors are female. 

The Verizon commercial (see below) follows one girl's development from toddler to adolescence; as she plays outdoors, curiously explores nature, and works busily on science projects.

But at every step, she is met with words of caution. "Who's my pretty girl?" her mother asks, then "don't get your dress dirty." "Be careful with that," says her father with concern. "Why don't you hand that to your brother?"

AdWeek reports that the advertisement is the result of a partnership between Verizon and Makers and is narrated by Girls Who Code founder, Reshma Saujani. And, while there may be other reasons for the discrepancy in statistics, it's impossible to deny the effect our chosen language has on young girls. 

These parents see their daughter as delicate and pretty, their words are intended to demonstrate care and love, yet they inadvertently send the message that she is incapable. 

These simple statements are all-too-readily trotted out, so ingrained are they in our culture and relationships. Despite best intentions, so many of us continue to engage with girls on a superficial level. 

By placing such importance on appearance we run the risk of dissuading young women from pursuing careers in fields traditionally dominated by men. 

As Kasey Edwards wrote recently:

"If family, friends, shop assistants, complete strangers and even Santa, only remark on how girls look, rather than what they think and do, how can we expect girls to believe that they have anything more to offer the world than their beauty?

It also further serves to widen the gender divide. We train girls to be objects, valued for how they look, and boys to be agents, valued for what they do and think."

The video ends with a thought-provoking question: Isn't it time we told her she's pretty brilliant, too?

Yes. We owe it to the girls in our lives, and to the industries that will be made all the richer by their future smarts.

- Daily Life

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