Thursday, February 28, 2008

... I can't think of a title, but it's a good one!

I am currently using free wi-fi at a McDonald’s in northern Michigan! I love technology… and I don’t care how old I get or how healthy I try to eat, the Golden Arches will always be my favorite fast food stop!

Anyway, I drove four hours north last night for a presentation this morning with my job as a contract speaker for a company that presents motivational assemblies about college and career success to high schoolers.

After a month on the job, with nearly twenty presentations under my belt, I have noticed an alarming trend in the high schools I visit. I know, I know… my job is speaking to high school students, so I encounter many alarming things, but one in particular is relevant on this blog.

I ask for volunteers several times during the presentations and troublingly, the female students are much less responsive! It’s not merely that the male students are more eager because they’re horny teenage boys; very few ladies even raise their hands! After some prodding I can usually get a few to step up but it’s very upsetting to me that the female teens are not outgoing and immediately willing to participate.

Before I began this morning I spotted a vibrant young woman who was energetically holding the attention of everyone around her. I went directly to her, smothered her with complements and then explained how chicas at all my other schools totally let me down when I ask for volunteers, but obviously she’d step up, right? Two young men behind us piped up, “We’ll do it!” They didn’t even know what we were talking about; the outgoing female teen completely changed her tune… shyly saying, “maybe if other people do it with me.” I couldn’t believe it! I said, “you don’t need anyone else; look at you- you’re an independent woman!” “No I’m not,” she said.

I don’t get it. The only exception I have found to this disconcerting phenomenon was last week at a vocation school; the women there were much more willing than the men.

I’ve always heard the statistics that men get a better education, especially in areas like math and science, but I’ve never before paid attention to this fact, or seen such evidence of it. Not all the female students I speak to can be that shy; I’m clearly witnessing a lack of confidence.

As I think back on my own high school career, I asked myself, would I have volunteered? No. I probably wouldn’t have. I was shy as a child, and though I became an outspoken, obnoxious teen about some things, overall I had very little confidence and I hated high school. I can recall two specific examples- once in OMEA District Choir and again in Ohio’s All-State Choir in which I didn’t even audition for the solos. It’s always bothered me; looking back I know I had the talent, I had to audition to get into the choirs, but I just didn’t have the confidence to even try for the solos! I doubted my abilities and feared I’d embarrass myself by auditioning.

I know we all struggle with confidence in whatever we do, thus I am so grateful that my dreams as a performer have forced me to face, and continue to overcome my fears. I realize high school is a difficult time and these women have a lot of growing ahead of them, but I still worry for them; it’s hard for me to image what might instill more self-assurance in these women if they do not share performance or pageant goals.

Returning to the core of the problem- why is this dramatic difference in the confidence of men and women still happening? I mean, it’s not the 1950s anymore; women are no longer offered only Home Ec and Typing! I can’t think of a specific example in any phase of my education in which I felt I was discriminated against for my gender, yet it’s clear something is happening, or not happening to cause this divide.

This issue is troubling, but it has reaffirmed my beliefs in what pageants can do for a young woman. The next time I hear someone question the relevance or positive effect of Miss America, I’ll be quick to ask them if they’ve spoken to the typical high school junior or senior lately. At least a pageant women will step up and speak up!

1 comment:

  1. And my, my, my what a 180 you did!!! :) I sure remember those "shy" cute!!! ;)


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