A night of girl power and girl talk: How are girls really doing?

Is Georgia overlooking mental health services in its ESSA plan?

I participated in a panel tonight at the Center for Civil and Human Rights to mark International Women’s Day. The headliner was First Lady Sandra Deal, who showed up despite a serious case of laryngitis.

Mrs. Deal joked her ragged whisper was the result of Read Across Georgia month — she has now read in every one of Georgia’s school systems, 600 schools all told over the years. She stayed long enough to greet the crowd and then headed home, hopefully to bed and tea.

The panel was fascinating and moderated by my former AJC colleague Moni Basu, who is now with CNN. It included Janice McKenzie-Crayton, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta, who spoke about mentoring; Spelman sophomore Mary-Pat Hector, National Youth Director for National Action Network and Stonecrest City Council Candidate, who spike about civic engagement among young women; Valerie Montgomery-Rice, president and dean of Morehouse School of Medicine, who shared her experiences at Georgia Tech and Harvard Medical School in discussing the importance of science and math; Karin Ryan, senior policy adviser on human rights and special representative on Women and Girls at the Carter Center, who spoke about the sex trade and women; and Beth-Sarah Wright, director of enrollment management, Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, and adjunct assistant professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, who spoke about mental health.

I was the final speaker, over prepared with 15 pages of notes for a short presentation and overwhelmed by the powerful commentary of my fellow panelists, all of whom emphasized the importance of mentors in their lives and the power of teachers to broaden a girl’s view of herself and her place in the world.

My task was to discuss inequities in education related to girls. Girls are doing pretty well, at least based on surface measures:

•72 percent of girls graduate high school, compared with 65 percent of boys.

•In 2015, 39 percent of women aged 25 to 29 had completed a bachelor’s degree. Only 32 percent of men had.

But not all the numbers are so glowing, especially when you look at the rate of women pursuing the jobs of the future:

•Women still are overrepresented in lower-paying occupations. Women make up 56 percent of workers in the 20 lowest-paid jobs, and just 29 percent of those in the 20 highest-paid jobs.

•Last year, 54,379 students took the AP Computer Science A exam in the United States, a 17 percent increase over 2015. Only 23 percent of those test takers were girls. Two states, Mississippi and Montana, didn’t have a single girl take the exam.

•In 2013, only 18 percent of bachelor’s degrees in computing were earned by women.

I talked about the role of teachers in inspiring girls in math and science; studies suggest elementary school teachers may have the most impact in influencing a girl’s interest in STEM and her confidence in her ability to succeed in it.

I also talked how parents sometimes restrain their girls’ reach, discouraging their bright daughters from straying too far from home for college.

I discussed the disparity in school discipline, a problem often cited in the context of African-American boys. But black girls also experience a disparate share of suspensions; the Office for Civil Rights at the United States Department of Education found from 2011 to 2012 that black girls in public elementary and secondary schools were suspended at a rate of 12 percent, compared with a rate of 2 percent for white girls. And often for what might be considered subjective judgments, such as having a bad attitude or being defiant.

Spelman sophomore Mary-Pat Hector, a wunderkind who began advocating for youth at age 11, said she was often criticized for being “loud” when she spoke up or asked questions. She was told she was being “bossy.”

In researching suspensions, I ran into a very interesting online discussion about how often black students are suspended for skipping classes. One school found black students did not skip classes any more than white students; white students just weren’t getting in trouble for it because their parents signed them out of class under the pretense of dental or medical appointments. Under school policy, excused absences after a parent calls carry no consequences.

White parents would allow their sons or daughters to miss a class or leave school early because they had a big project to finish. I have seen this firsthand. Friends will get a text from their kids about how tired they are from a late-night study session or an away basketball game. The parents will go to school and sign them out or call to clear them to leave. Or, parents will let their kids sleep in and miss first period.

Black kids were suffering the consequences for missing class because their parents didn’t cover for them. The problem was the resulting suspensions set the black students on a downward spiral of bad grades. The school revised its policies.

I also talked about the growing unease with the social media addiction of young girls, who have turned their lives into a never-ending stream of photos and videos on Instagram or Snapchat, all with the underlying theme of  “like me.” Many counselors are reporting rising stress levels among  girls, and I don’t think social media with its instant and often harsh judgments helps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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19 comments
Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Just yesterday, my granddaughter, aged 9, came home from school and cried because a boy in her class called her, "fat." She is at the 40th percentile in weight for her height (she is tall) but it stung because this boy did this.  It hurt me because she felt dissed so badly.


Her aunt would not have been unduly bothered by this.  In fact, her aunt, the astrophysicist, would have told the boy to drop dead, in all likelihood, at age 9.  And if he physically hurt her, as a boy did when she was 7, she pulled his "rat's tail" out of his head.  He looked the other way after that when she was around.


Her mom, at age 15, was sexually assaulted (sexually grabbed and propositioned) in high school several times and put up with it because she thought nothing could be done, that the male football players were too powerful.  What she found out, however, was that she WAS powerful, and could ask for help and be heard, when the school board listened to her and agreed to get in place rules and procedures to handle situations like this, so that the person assaulted no longer had to put up with it and be afraid. Until that time, Clarke County had no written policy or procedure for handling student on student sexual harassment.


So here is a today-era anecdote about the way girls can be mistreated by little jerks.  And on "Women's Day" of all days.Isn't it time we put a stop to this?



Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady 

Those little jerks were raised by big jerks. I'm glad she stood up for herself and pulled the kids rat's tail.Maybe he'll think twice next time and leave other girls alone.

Astropig
Astropig

@MaryElizabethSings @Astropig


It doesn't fit.You just don't like me because I expose your cartoonish hypocrisy and partisanship on a regular basis.


I'm a nice guy.Ask anyone.

time for reform
time for reform

3 out of 4 black children grow up without a father in the home. So it can be no surprise if they benefit less from parent excuses for absences at school, don't you think? 

But I bet that was never discussed. 

Nor the fact that the ratio of black single-parent households has tripled since the 1960s. While this ratio has crept up for all groups it has exploded for blacks, and children suffer the consequences.

Along with their educational performance.

Astropig
Astropig

" One school found black students did not skip classes any more than white students; white students just weren’t getting in trouble for it because their parents signed them out of class under the pretense of dental or medical appointments."


How can you possibly know this in the age of HIPAA? Was this law not passed specifically so that every person would not have to prove or disprove,disclose or not disclose details of their medical care or history to every busybody that wants a peek?


I've sat in many waiting rooms and urgent care clinics with sick and hurt kids and this is just beyond the pale. For what? To make some point about racism?

Astropig
Astropig

@MaureenDowney @Astropig


I have two daughters.There were times when they were in their early teen years,going through puberty, when their menstrual cramps were so bad that they couldn't function.They were in real pain.I stayed home with them and talked with them and got stuff for them that they needed and the like.It's part of being a stay-home dad.Darn right I called in for them. I sure didn't look at it as "covering" anything.


I'm sure glad all you know-it-alls weren't able to pass judgement on my two girls for something beyond their control just because of our race.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Astropig When I sign my kids out of school, there is a category on the form to check for medical appointments. By the way, what this school system found out is that two sets of parents were less likely to cover for their kids when they wanted to skip classes -- minority parents and military parents. Those parents were more likely to believe their kids ought to face the consequences for their decisions even though it meant suspension. If you don't think parents allow their kids to miss school because they are tired or stressed, you have not been paying attention or talking to many parents of kids now in school. And if you don't think parents cover for their kids to have them avoid suspensions -- which, in fact, are linked to lower grades and poorer school performance so there is reason to avoid them -- you have not had frank conversations with enough parents. 





MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

To young women:

Know deep inside yourselves that you were born on this Earth to be more than sexual objects and images to satisfy the sexual fantasies of immature men, and you should accept no less of yourselves individually than to live out who you are uniquely and in full.

Astropig
Astropig

@MaryElizabethSings 

We finally agree. Couldn't agree more.Women should not be bossed around by anyone,including other women.A good place to start empowerment is the middle east,where women are (as you describe above),mainly sexual objects and looked at as chattel property of their husbands of a a certain faith.We cannot run those countries,of course,but one of our political parties could stop cozying up to them and begging them to come here in order to show how "tolerant" they are.


Likewise domestically.In our national election just past,women's groups and other "advocates" (including you,if I recall), tried shaming,bullying and humiliating women to vote for a certain candidate simply because they were women.This failed,of course,because educated,independent women made it known that they are not monolithic and will take marching orders from no one.This is the empowerment you seem to seek.Congratulations.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Astropig @MaryElizabethSings 

....and of course, "that candidate" himself shamed, bullied, and humiliated women. And "educated, independent women" (including my own daughter, twice)  took "their marching orders" from themselves to protest: "Not my President!"

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Astropig @MaryElizabethSings


". . .past,women's groups and other 'advocates' (including you,if I recall), tried shaming,bullying and humiliating women to vote for a certain candidate simply because they were women."

++++++++++++++++++++++++


This is false information shared on this blog, Astropig.  It is only true in your 'generalized' and stereotypical mind.

Astropig
Astropig

@OriginalProf @Astropig @MaryElizabethSings


Educated independent women were (IIRC) Trump's 2nd largest voting bloc.His opponents arrogance and corruption was apparent to them and I applaud them realizing that and reacting to it:


http://www.chicagonow.com/aging-changing/2016/11/the-reason-white-college-educated-women-voted-for-trump-comes-down-to-one-word/


I knew something was weird in the weeks before the election when AstroMom told me that she had written Trump a letter and registered to vote. Then she went down to the courthouse and voted for the guy.She's the most apolitical person that ever lived.She never once voted in her life before 2016.



Just a note-Like it or not, he's their president.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Ladies, know what is going on in our world, without having it sugar-coated. Look at the hard truth, rawly and straight in the eye. It is going to take all of us together to save this democratic governmental union for the world’s future, and we must join together to fight against autocratic governments in our world, not just for women but for all people everywhere.