Monday, December 7, 2009

How Girls Learn Differently

Did you know that boys and girls see differently? Carol Kaufmann, author of “How Boys and Girls Learn Differently” interviewed David Chadwell, the first and only state coordinator of single gender education. Male and female eyes are not organized in the same way, Chadwell explains. The composition of the male eye makes it attuned to motion and direction. The female eye, on the other hand, is drawn to textures and colors. It’s also oriented toward warmer colors—reds, yellow, oranges—and visuals with more details, like faces. To engage girls, instruct them to form a circle facing each other, use descriptive phrases and incorporate lots of color.

If girls work well in circles and are oriented toward visuals with more details, adults should consider the following when assisting in developing young female leaders:
  • Provide a mentor/protégé program. Girls need positive role models that they can access and learn from. Women leaders can listen and share their experiences with future young women leaders.
  • Create a buddy system. Girls thrive in positive relationships and are open to learn from one another. Maybe it’s a student in the 7th grade teamed up with a student in the 6th grade. It would allow the new student the ability to learn from a student who has completed a year at the school. In return, the 7th grader gets to mentor the 6th grader.(See the Program Aide opportunities at GSCTX.)
  • No Command and Control. Teach leadership skills that differ from the command and control style. Girls aspire to a different kind of leadership that serves a bigger purpose. They are not interested in power for the sake of power. (Read the BusinessWeek article based on research from GSRI.)
  • Encourage extracurricular activities. Girls Scouts, sports, critical thinking classes are great examples. Social skills, competition, and self-confidence are skills which are taught successfully in these programs.
  • Support their interests. When girls are passionate about something they tend to volunteer to lead. Rusine Sinclair, CEO of the North Carolina Girl Scouts Council, stated, “Young women are concerned about making a difference in the world to see positive outcomes. They are interested in something that would improve a situation. Again, I believe they are defining those things that are important to them and using the leadership from within to improve things in their world.”
In summary, Cunningham and Roberts’ (2006) research indicates men understand the world by constructing systems. Women understand the world by putting themselves in the shoes of others, feeling what they're feeling and seeing what they're seeing (Our Six Themes: Masculine is Hard-Wired to Systemize; Feminine is Hard-Wired to Empathize section, 2006, ¶ 2).

Now that we know that there is a difference. Let’s get busy implementing strategies to support our future women leaders.

-CJ Harris

Carlena "CJ" Harris joined IBM in June 1997 and has held various roles within the IBM Software Group division. She has eight years of experience leading and managing virtual teams. Currently, she is a Global IT Program Manager. She holds degrees from University of Houston (Information Systems Technology, BS) and St. Edward's University (Organizational Leadership & Ethics, MS). CJ volunteers as a motivational speaker and life/career coach. She is also a wife, mother of two, coach, mentor and an aspiring writer.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent! I will certainly visit the sources you referenced. While reading your post CJ, I thought of a couple things that I could integrate into our program when working with girls. Thanks for sharing.