Investing in your Nerdy Chicks

As 2013 draws to a close, people are starting to reflect on what has happened and identify things to focus on in the future, especially in the new year to come. I’ve noticed that a lot of people are talking about investing in women.

Of course, this isn’t a new idea. Just a year ago, billionaire businessman Warren Buffet said that he believed that harnessing the full power and potential of women would be what saves the U.S. economy.

On an international level, Pakistani student Malala Yousafzai brought the need to offer women equal educational opportunities to light, both in her advocacy for women’s education and her valor and courage when she was almost assassinated for those views. A report from the George W. Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative called INVEST IN AFGHAN WOMEN: A Report on Education in Afghanistan uses Malala’s example to make the case for why we should invest in girls’ education.

Just last week, Catherine M. Russell, the United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, gave a speech about increasing the opportunities for women to participate in politics and government. She said, “We know that that investing in women and girls – helping them unleash their potential – is the right thing to do morally – and the wise thing to do strategically.”

Here at Nerdy Chicks Rule, we are strong believers of investing in women – especially in girls. If you have a Nerdy Chick in your life (as I do), you already know that the more you invest in her now, the easier it will be for her to reach her full potential. So we’ve come up with some tips to help you invest in the Nerdy Chick in your life:

  • Encourage

1074test_tubesIt seems pretty obvious – the more you encourage someone, ANYONE, the better he or she will do. Somehow, though, there are people that believe that encouragement alone is not enough. A few years ago, on January 14, 2005, then president of Harvard, Lawrence Summers, made it clear that he believed that there was an innate difference in the ability of men versus women in mathematical ability. And yet, studies have shown that there aren’t innate differences in ability between boys and girls, just in the ways they are encouraged to pursue certain fields or careers. (We’ve even blogged about this here earlier this year.) So, if you believe in your Nerdy Chick, encourage her to try things, pursue her interests, follow her heart. If other people try to dissuade her, encourage even harder.

  • Inspire

Another one that seems pretty obvious, but bears some discussion.

wedu logoIn 2012, two graduates of the London School of Economics, Mari Sawai and Mario Ferro, founded an organization called Wedu. Their goal is to create access to higher education for women in Southeast Asia through microfinancing, mentorship and counseling. What I found really great about their approach is the mentoring. These women understand that it is not enough to have ability – Nerdy Chicks need role models, something to aspire to. For your Nerdy Chick, be a role model. And if you aren’t the right role model, find her one. Connect her to other people who can support her. Give her a network and a community of people who believe in her. Over time, that will only make her exponentially stronger.

  • Invest (money)

The last thing I want to quickly touch on is the importance of money. As a country, we’ve been talking a lot about saving for the future and ways we can figure out how to pay for things like mortgages, health care as we age, college costs, and a lot of other things. And while we all know that saving is essential, I wanted to give a concrete example of what a difference it can make.

growing savingsMy oldest daughter is 12. In six years, she’ll be going to college. If I gave her just $20 a month, every month for the next 6 years, when it is time for her to pay for college, she’d have almost $1700 set aside (and that’s assuming a relatively conservative 5% annual interest rate). If I gave her $50 a month (around $10 a week), she’d have about $4100 for college. These things can mean the difference between being able to afford a higher education or not. It’s one of the best ways to invest in your Nerdy Chick. (Click here for a great simple calculator to estimate savings.)

Encourage, inspire, invest. Three simple steps that can make a big difference.

Nerdy Chicks and Losing

Scantron-Bubble-TestI like to joke that I don’t like to play games that I can’t win. It’s a way to show my competitiveness, and also a way for me to brag a little bit about my abilities. But the truth is that I don’t like playing games I can’t win because I really cannot handle losing.

A lot of smart women feel the same way I do. And it turns out that our inability to face losing might be what is holding us back.

The data shows that in elementary school, girls get better grades than boys, with both performing equally well on standardized tests. But by the time they get to high school, boys open up a lead in standardized test scores – an average of 33 points higher than girls on the SAT – even though girls graduate high school with a higher average GPA.

After we move on from high school, things get worse. Girls – or, women, rather – really start to lose ground to men. In the US, women represent almost 60% of college students but later earn roughly 77 cents for every dollar earned by white men. Although 54% of advanced AP/Honors math students are girls, fewer than 25% of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs are held by women. Even without citing hard statistics, we all know that when it comes to leadership, managerial, or executive positions, women lag behind men significantly.

As parents and educators of Nerdy Chicks, there are many issues that lead to these gaps in achievement that we cannot change in a day (or in a single blog post). But there is one thing that we can start to address that could quite possibly make a difference: the way we give our Nerdy Chicks feedback on their academic performance.

good gradesOne theory about why girls do better in younger grades has to do with the ability of girls to perform well at the social side of education. Girls learn self-control earlier, follow instructions better, and generally behave in more acceptable ways than boys. In other words, they are “good.” Probably, these things collectively help them learn better, and often, they get praised for their academic performance in a way that is linked to their “goodness.” When you tell your daughter that she is very smart or a great student, it can start to sound like being smart or being a good student is something innate, something she was born with, something that is as much a part of her as her hair color or her nose.

For the record, I’m guilty of doing just this. I have often told my daughters how smart they are in the same breath that I tell them how beautiful they are. Even though one is changeable and the other is inherent.

The feedback that we give boys is very different. Because boys are often less conscientious, they are encouraged to try harder and put in more effort. The result is that boys learn that trying hard or putting in effort is far more important that what grade you get. Over time, this might be what accounts for the ability of boys to succeed.

Studies have shown that when students face advanced material that doesn’t come easily, boys react to the difficulty by continuing to try hard and put in an effort. Girls, on the other hand, may view the difficulty as a sign of the failure of their brains to handle it. They’d rather not try something and fail at it, because that would just prove that they aren’t “good” or “smart.”

In other words, boys play games they can’t win because they believe that they can figure out how to win with enough effort. Girls stop playing when they can’t win. You know, like I do.

I’ve been this way for so long that, even though I recognize the logic here, I’m not sure I can change. I’m not sure I can find the confidence to try something I might not be good at, to publicly fail, to “set myself up” for potential embarrassment. But I think I’d like to teach my girls a different way. So from now on, I’m not going to praise my kids for being smart – I’m going to praise how hard they tried. I’m going to link their success to their exertion, and I’m going to make their effort, not the grade they get, the goal. Whenever possible, I’m going to make them play a game they can’t win. Because, hopefully, I’ll be able to convince them that not winning today doesn’t mean never winning – that every loss will bring them closer to winning one day.

On that day that they win, I will cheer. I will be proud of them. And, probably, I won’t ever play with them again. Because I really can’t handle losing.winking face

 

 

REMINDER

If you haven’t entered the BOY PROBLEM Giveaway, today is your last day! Click here to enter.

 

 

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Coretta Scott King

CorettascottkingThis week, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, we celebrate some well-spoken quotes from Coretta Scott King (1927 -2006. The wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Mrs. King was an activist in her own right, and continued to work for social justice long after her husband’s death. In 1969 her name was given to one of the most prestigious children’s book awards, The Coretta Scott King Book Awards. Her accomplishments are too many to mention here, but you can read more about them HERE.

Coretta Scott King Quotes:

  • Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.
  • If American women would increase their voting turnout by ten percent, I think we would see an end to all of the budget cuts in programs benefiting women and children.
  • I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice. But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
  • The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members, … a heart of grace and a soul generated by love.
  • Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.

We were honored to interview one writer whose book, Ellen’s Broom, was a recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration here on NCR. Click here to see the interview with Kelly Starling Lyons.

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Frances Perkins

File:Image FrancesPerkinsAfterRooseveltsDeath.jpgIn 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed a woman named Frances Perkins as Secretary of the Department of Labor. This was the first time a woman held a cabinet position in the United States. She held this position for twelve years, the longest tenure of any Secretary of Labor. That means Frances was not only the first time a woman to enter the presidential line of succession, but that she was in line for the job for over a decade. As astonishing as this is, Frances was probably so used to breaking convention by that point that it hardly shortened her stride. After all, she went to court to defend her right to keep her own name after she got married (in a time when women were really only known by their association with men) and she was sole wage earner in her family. As Secretary of Labor through the New Deal, Frances put a lasting mark on American life and culture. We can thank her for things like social security, unemployment insurance, federal child labor laws, and the federal minimum wage. Find out more about this amazing Nerdy Chick HERE.

Frances Perkins Quotes:

  • “Being a woman has only bothered me in climbing trees.”
  • “The door might not be opened to a woman again for a long, long time, and I had a kind of duty to other women to walk in and sit down on the chair that was offered, and so establish the right of others long hence and far distant in geography to sit in the high seats.”
  • “I promise to use what brains I have to meet problems with intelligence and courage. I promise that I will be candid about what I know. I promise to all of you who have the right to know, the whole truth so far as I can speak it. If I have been wrong, you may tell me so, for I really have no pride in judgment.”
  • “Most of man’s problems upon this planet, in the long history of the race, have been met and solved either partially or as a whole by experiment based on common sense and carried out with courage.”

Nancy Kennedy: Working for Nonprofits

nancyOne thing that has always impressed me most about my former neighbor Nancy Kennedy is that in addition to everything else she does, she is, and always has been, a wonderful cook.  She produces a complete meal from her cozy kitchen almost every night and, having been a guest at her table on many occasions, I can say that every mouthful is delicious. I’ve asked her more than once, “Does your husband know how lucky he is?” (If he doesn’t, I hope he’s reading this now!) But Nancy is also a highly organized and super-efficient leader, who has spent most of her adult life working for non-profits, either as a volunteer, or an employee. She has been president of Stone Academy PTA, Council PTA, and ECW (Episcopal Church Women), and has worked in the schools and community in other volunteer positions. Prior to that, she worked for the American Red Cross, and now she is volunteer coordinator and office manager for OLLI at Furman University, her alma mater. Thanks Nancy for joining us today!

If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be? Don’t worry about most of the stuff your friends and classmates say about you.  They are kids and they don’t know what they’re talking about.  

Ha! J You’ve spent most of your career working for nonprofit agencies. How is this rewarding to you?  It’s certainly not financially rewarding, but I am fortunate that my income is a supplemental one and not the one we rely on for groceries and mortgage payments. 

The American Red Cross is a wonderful organization, and one that I was proud to represent as a spokesperson and fundraiser.  Most people know the Red Cross responds to disasters, but many forget that we have ALL benefited from Red Cross programs through swimming lessons, being watched by a Red Cross-trained lifeguard, or knowing that our children are cared for at school by teachers who have completed Red Cross First Aid and CPR classes.  I enjoyed educating the public about ALL of the Red Cross programs, and as a result raising funds to support those programs.

In April, 2011, after 13 years as a stay-at-home mom and community volunteer, I went back to work in a part-time position at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Furman University.   While there’s no age requirement, members of OLLI at Furman are generally 55 and older and most are retired.  They come to OLLI to take classes ranging from Latin to Woodcarving to Shakespeare to Genetics.  There are no tests, no homework, and no papers.  Most of the classes are taught by our members and all of our instructors teach for the joy of teaching because they are not paid for their efforts.  In addition to classes, we have social events, tours, speakers, and special interest groups.  Our program provides a way for seniors to continue to learn and also provides members the opportunity to stretch themselves further through volunteering, OLLI leadership, and teaching.  I love my job for many reasons, but I think one of the best parts is that it is so nice to work in a place where everyone is happy to be there. It’s a joy to see our members enjoying their retirement years, learning new things, making new friends, volunteering together in the community, and supporting each other.  (And working at my alma mater is a HUGE bonus!)

What skills are needed to work for OLLI? What is required of you so that the program is successful? My responsibilities include managing the office, managing our two college student workers, and working with membership, volunteers, and social events.  I say I do the “fun stuff”—the extra things beyond classes that help enrich the OLLI experience.  No two days are alike and many of our days are crazy busy, especially at the beginning of each term.  We have around 1,000 members excited about coming back to “school,” and they come back with questions, they drop and add classes, new volunteers come in, and there is just a lot going on.  Anyone who works in our office must be able to work through frequent interruptions.  I don’t mind those a bit. 

One of the main talents I employ at work is encouraging people to volunteer and helping them find the right volunteer job.  This seems to be one of my biggest gifts; I’ve been successful in many different areas in recruiting volunteers and getting the most from them.  I’ve had volunteers I’ve recruited for PTA, my kids’ swim team, and Sunday School teaching say that they can’t tell me no.  That ability is one of the traits that helped me land this job.  I wish I could tell you how I do it, but I’m really not sure why I’m more successful at recruiting volunteers.  I know how I like to be treated when I volunteer, so I guess I try to treat others the same way.

Yes, I remember being recruited by you once for a PTA event. I couldn’t tell you no either! Work aside, what’s something you like to do that might be considered a little bit nerdy, but is actually really fun?  I love puzzles—any kind.  I enjoy doing all of the puzzles that are in the newspaper:  Sudoku, crosswords, Jumble, Cryptoquote, and Scrabble.  I always have a few Words with Friends games going.  I love working on jigsaw puzzles, although I still haven’t forgiven my husband for his gift several years ago of a 2000-piece puzzle.  It’s a beautiful scene from a coastal town in Italy, but it’s mostly sky and water, hence it’s all blue except for a tiny sliver of town.  I still haven’t finished that one….

Like I said in the introduction, you are a wonderful cook! Tell us about something (a skill, a secret recipe, a tool) that contributes to your success in the kitchen. I do like to cook and reading cookbooks is one of my favorite things to do.  (That sounds a bit nerdy, doesn’t it?)  I’m lucky to have family (and friends!) who will try just about anything; that makes it even more fun. Several years ago we got a new stove.  It’s dual fuel—it has a gas cooktop and an electric oven.  I just adore it.  Soon after, I received a very nice set of pots and pans for Christmas, and then treated myself to a really good set of knives.  That was when I realized how important good tools are.   I truly believe my cooking has improved immensely since I’ve had a gas cooktop, good pots, and a decent knife.

Thanks for sharing your tools of the kitchen and tools of the trade! OLLI is lucky to have you.

To find out more about OLLI, click HERE. There is an easy map at this site to help you find OLLI programs near you. I’ve been to a few here in Beaufort. Some OLLIs have age restrictions, but many are open to all ages.  Check the site for more details. 

 

 

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Belva Lockwood

In honor of the upcoming election, this week’s Quotable Nerdy Chick is one of my personal favorites: Belva Lockwood. It’s sad to me how many people have never heard of Belva. She was such a fascinating woman that I believe she should be a household name.

In the United States in 1884, only men were allowed to vote. But Belva decided that she would take a bold but legal step: she ran for president! After all, the law only prohibited women from voting, not from getting votes. And, believe it or not, Belva got votes! She ran an effective campaign and actually convinced hundreds of men to vote for a woman for president. But don’t think they were sympathy votes! Belva’s run for office was based on experience and merit: unlike many women of the time, she went to college, then to law school, and even argued cases before the Supreme Court.

Quotes from Belva Lockwood:

“If nations could only depend upon fair and impartial judgments in a world court of law, they would abandon the senseless, savage practice of war.”

“I know we can’t abolish prejudice through laws, but we can set up guidelines for our actions by legislation.”

“I am, and always have been a progressive woman, and while never directly attacking the conventionalities of society, have always done, or attempted to do those things which I have considered conducive to my health, convenience or emolument.”

File:Belva Ann Lockwood - Brady-Handy.jpg“The glory of each generation is to make its own precedents.”

“I have been now fourteen years before the bar, in an almost continuous practice, and my experience has been large, often serious, and many times amusing. I have never lacked plenty of good paying work; but, while I have supported my family well, I have not grown rich. In business I have been patient, painstaking, and indefatigable. There is no class of case that comes before the court that I have not ventured to try . . . either civil, equitable, or criminal; and my clients have been as largely men as women. There is a good opening at the bar for the class of women who have taste and tact for it.”

Learn more about Belva at the National Archives or check out my book, BALLOTS FOR BELVA.

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Madeleine Albright

File:Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.jpg

 

Madeleine Albright is a Nerdy Chick extraordinaire! She has served our country as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations and as the 64th United States Secretary of State — and, oh, by the way, the first woman to ever hold that office. She has a PhD from Columbia University, she has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she has served on the Board of Directors of the New York Stock Exchange, she is a Professor of International Relations at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, and just to top all that off, she is fluent in English, French, Russian, and Czech. Oh, and she speaks and reads Polish and Serbo-Croatian, too. I wonder if she has a cape and mask to go with all those superpowers?

Quotes from Madeleine Albright:

“Even before I went to the UN, I often would want to say something in a meeting – only woman at the table – and I’d think, ‘OK well, I don’t think I’ll say that. It may sound stupid.’ And then some man says it, and everybody thinks it’s completely brilliant, and you are so mad at yourself for not saying something.”

“It’s one thing to be religious, but it’s another thing to make religion your policy.”

“I love being a woman and I was not one of these women who rose through professional life by wearing men’s clothes or looking masculine. I loved wearing bright colors and being who I am.”

“I really think that there was a great advantage in many ways to being a woman. I think we are a lot better at personal relationships, and then have the capability obviously of telling it like it is when it’s necessary.”

“I’ve never been to New Zealand before. But one of my role models, Xena, the warrior princess, comes from there.”

(FYI: Xena is one of my role models, too!)

Read more about Madeleine HERE or HERE.