Why Girls Beat Boys at School and Lose to Them at the Office

Lisa Damour nos plantea desde el New York Times una de las cuestiones que se producen y que se quedan muchas veces sin contestar: el trabajo duro y la disciplina ayudan a las niñas a superar a los niños en clase, pero esa ventaja desaparece en la fuerza laboral. ¿Es la escuela un problema?.



Wenting Li

From elementary school through college, girls are more disciplined about their schoolwork than boys; they study harder and get better grades. Girls consistently outperform boys academically. And yet, men nonetheless hold a staggering 95 percent of the top positions in the largest public companies.

What if those same habits that propel girls to the top of their class — their hyper-conscientiousness about schoolwork — also hold them back in the work force?

When investigating what deters professional advancement for women, the journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman found that a shortage of competence is less likely to be an obstacle than a shortage of confidence. When it comes to work-related confidence, they found men are far ahead. “Underqualified and underprepared men don’t think twice about leaning in,” they wrote. “Overqualified and overprepared, too many women still hold back. Women feel confident only when they are perfect.

As a psychologist who works with teenagers, I hear this concern often from the parents of many of my patients. They routinely remark that their sons do just enough to keep the adults off their backs, while their daughters relentlessly grind, determined to leave no room for error. The girls don’t stop until they’ve polished each assignment to a high shine and rewritten their notes with color-coded precision.

We need to ask: What if school is a confidence factory for our sons, but only a competence factory for our daughters?

This possibility hit me when I was caring for an eighth grader in my practice. She got terrific grades but was feeling overwhelmed by school. Her brother, a ninth grader, had similarly excellent grades, but when I asked if he worked as hard as she did, she scoffed. If she worked on an assignment for an hour and got an A, she felt “safe” only if she spent a full hour on other assignments like it. Her brother, in contrast, flew through his work. When he brought home an A, she said, he felt “like a stud.” If his grades slipped a bit, he would take his effort up just a notch. But she never felt “safe” enough to ever put in less than maximum effort.

That experience — of succeeding in school while exerting minimal or moderate effort — is a potentially crucial one. It may help our sons develop confidence, as they see how much they can accomplish simply by counting on their wits. For them, school serves as a test track, where they build their belief in their abilities and grow increasingly at ease relying on them. Our daughters, on the other hand, may miss the chance to gain confidence in their abilities if they always count on intellectual elbow grease alone.

So how do we get hyper-consciencious girls (and boys, as there certainly are some with the same style) to built both confidence and competence at school?

First, parents and teachers can stop praising inefficient overwork, even if it results in good grades. Gendered approaches to learning set in early, so it’s never too soon to start working against them. Recently, as I read “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” to my 8-year-old daughter, I stopped at a passage in which Hermione — the fictional poster child for academic fastidiousness — turned in an essay that was “two rolls of parchment more than Professor Binns asked for.” Hermione, I pointed out, doesn’t make great use of her time. She’s a capable student and could probably do just as well without working so hard. “Right,” my daughter said. “Of course she could!”

We can also encourage girls toward a different approach to school — one that’s more focused on economy of effort, rather than how many hours they put in. Whenever one of the academically impressive and persistently anxious girls in my practice tells me about staying up until 2 in the morning studying, I see an opening. That’s the moment to push them to become tactical, to figure out how to continue learning and getting the same grades while doing a little bit less. I urge my patients — and my own teenage daughter — to begin study sessions by taking sample tests, to see how much they know before figuring out how much more they need to do to attain mastery over a concept or task. Many girls build up an incredible capacity for work, but they need these moments to discover and take pride in how much they already understand.

Teachers, too, can challenge girls’ over-the-top tendencies. When a girl with a high-A average turns in extra credit work, her instructor might ask if she is truly taken with the subject or if she is looking to store up “insurance points,” as some girls call them. If it’s the former, more power to her. If it’s the latter, the teacher might encourage the student to trust that what she knows and the work she is already doing will almost certainly deliver the grade she wants. Educators can also point out to this student that she may not need insurance; she probably has a much better grasp of the material than she gives herself credit for.

Finally, we can affirm for girls that it is normal and healthy to feel some anxiety about school. Too often, girls are anxious even about being anxious, so they turn to excessive studying for comfort. We can remind them that being a little bit nervous about schoolwork just means that they care about it, which of course they should.

Even if neither you nor your daughter cares about becoming a chief executive, you may worry that she will eventually be crushed by the weight of her own academic habits. While a degree of stress promotes growth, working at top speed in every class at all times is unhealthy and unsustainable for even the most dedicated high school students. A colleague of mine likes to remind teenagers that in classes where any score above 90 counts as an A, the difference between a 91 and a 99 is a life.

To be sure, the confidence gap is hardly the only thing keeping women out of top jobs. Women also face gender bias, sexual harassment and powerful structural barriers in the workplace. But confidence at school is one unequal advantage that we can address right now. Instead of standing by as our daughters make 50 flashcards when they were assigned 20, we can step in and ask them why. Many professional men brim with confidence because they have spent years getting to know their abilities. Women should arrive in the work world having done the same.

Lisa Damour is a psychologist in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and the author of “Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood” and “Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls.” @LDamour Facebook



10 videos que reconocen la fortaleza de las niñas

Este post de Sapos y princesas nos recuerda lo importante que es educar a nuestas hijas y a nuestros hijos por igual. Su futuro depende de ello.


En la actualidad hay 1.100 millones de niñas en el todo el mundo, un poderoso grupo que puede dar forma a un mundo sostenible y mejor para todas las personas; millones de niñas talentosas y creativas. Sin embargo, sus sueños y potencial pueden verse frustrados por la discriminación, la violencia y la falta de oportunidades.

Por eso, el 11 de octubre se celebra en todo el mundo el Día Internacional de la Niña, un día para reconocer sus derechos y los desafíos excepcionales que confrontan las niñas de todo el mundo.

Las niñas se enfrentan a una doble discriminación por su sexo y su edad y son el sector de la sociedad más discriminado en todo el mundo. La celebración de un día mundial ayuda a priorizar sus derechos y a dar importancia a los problemas que sufren como tema prioritario en las próximas décadas.

En Sapos y Princesas queremos unirnos a la conmemoración de este día porque somos conscientes de lo importante que es valorar y dar oportunidades por igual a nuestros hijos, sean del sexo que sean; y como una imagen vale más que mil palabras, hemos hecho una selección de vídeos que buscan empoderar a las niñas y concienciarnos a todos de lo fuertes, valiosas e inteligentes que son.

  • En este video vemos cómo Riley, una niña de tan sólo 5 años, es consciente de cómo desde los juguetes que se les dan, las niñas ya están condicionadas por el marketing sexista que las convierte en princesas indefensas. Así, Riley se pregunta ¿por qué no ser superheroínas? ¡Nosotras también podemos serlo!
  • El siguiente video defiende que las niñas y adolescentes sigan practicando deportes independientemente de lo que escuchen acerca de su feminidad, ya que practicar deportes aumenta su confianza en sí mismas.


  • Las niñas pueden ser científicas, mecánicas, astronautas, escritoras… ¡Pueden ser cualquier cosa que ellas decidan! Y Plan International nos lo deja claro en este pequeño video animado.


  • ‘Los padres no entienden tan bien los problemas de las niñas como las madres’ es una afirmación que todos hemos escuchado a menudo. Sin embargo, tal y como nos cuenta Rachel Simmons esto no es cierto:Las investigaciones demuestran que las niñas cuyos padres están involucrados positivamente en sus vidas tienden a tener una mayor autoestima y también están más dispuestas a probar cosas nuevas. La figura paterna influye en la confianza de las niñas. Cuando un padre trata a las mujeres y a las niñas con respeto, hace que su hija busque lo mismo de los niños y los hombres que se encontrará más adelante.
  • Otro vídeo que ya ha tenido mucha repercusión es aquel que nos pregunta qué es hacer las cosas ‘como una niña’. ¿Qué mensaje nos ha dado la sociedad sobre esto y qué piensan las niñas realmente?
  • En este video conocemos a Daisy, una niña que sale con su madre de compras y analiza el tipo de ropa femenina y, sobre todo, los mensajes que esta nos lanza a las mujeres ¿por qué las niñas deben ser bonitas y los niños aventureros?
  • Romper estereotipos es otro de los objetivos de Plan International con este video, que busca acabar con la discriminación, los estereotipos de género y la desigual distribución del poder entre mujeres y hombres, y niñas y niños.
  • Vivimos en un mundo confuso para ser las chicas. Por un lado, se nos insta a ser fuertes, ambiciosas y luchar por lo que queremos y pero por otro, se mantiene la imagen de que las niñas que alzan su voz son ‘mandonas’. Lo que conseguimos es que las niñas tengan dificultades para dar su opinión y aportar.
  • El 72% de las niñas y las mujeres sienten que las sociedad las limita en algunos aspectos. Tenemos que conseguir que las niñas tengan confianza y que sean imparables.



  • Cuando un niño dice lo que piensa y proyecta una imagen de confianza, es considerado un ‘líder nato’. Sin embargo, una niña que hace lo mismo es considerada una ‘mandona’, una ‘creída’… El lenguaje y una percepción distinta de las actitudes dependiendo de nuestro sexo son una lacra para la educación de las niñas y mujeres tan conocidas como Beyonce, Condolezza Rice o Jane Lynch lo saben bien y nos lo cuentan en este video.


Os animamos a ver todos ellos junto a vuestras hijas y compartir opiniones, visiones y experiencias por ambas partes. Seguro que tanto ellas como vosotros tenéis mucho que aportar y dándoles voz, predicaréis con el ejemplo. ¡Feliz Día de las Niñas!