Closing the geek gap

25 Nov

Fascinated by this study – 15-minute writing exercise closes the gender gap in university-level physics.

Think about the things that are important to you. Perhaps you care about creativity, family relationships, your career, or having a sense of humour. Pick two or three of these values and write a few sentences about why they are important to you. You have fifteen minutes. It could change your life.

…In the university’s physics course, men typically do better than women but Miyake’s study shows that this has nothing to do with innate ability. With nothing but his fifteen-minute exercise, performed twice at the beginning of the year, he virtually abolished the gender divide and allowed the female physicists to challenge their male peers.

It just goes to show how much peoples’ self-perception affects their performance. Perhaps an exercise to try with students who are under-performing at actively pursuing their graduate career?

I realised I had tried something vaguely similar in my beginners’ training sessions on blogging, just before they created their first blog. I gave everyone a sheet and asked them to fill in a Mission Statement for their blog, what their Key Selling Point would be (for want of a better phrase), what they were aiming and hoping for. Yet it was never a big success – it didn’t seem to be what people were expecting.

Image by Pedro Glez (Pitadel - Flickr)

Possibly I went wrong in heading it up with the phrase  ‘Mission Statement’ which is enough to make anyone groan. Possibly it was just too soon to ask beginners to make claims like ‘this is going to be the best source of news, resources and reviews for graduate careers in X’ when they hadn’t started yet. But I think there were also some who would have felt this blogging thing is a bit techie, not really their thing. Some who just wanted to get competent enough to turn out a few posts, tick a box to say they tried it, and not really aspire to more.

I wonder if I changed it around to be less about the blog, and more about the potential blogger:

  • What is it you love about your work in careers?
  • What do you value most in life?
  • Would you say you are an empathic people-person or an analytical problem-solver? Ahead-of-the-crowd or happy in the middle? What is more important to you?

(excuse the off-the-top-of-my-head questions)

Then use the responses in discussion as a way of exploring the potential blogger’s voice, their topics, their motivation, what kind of reinforcement and feedback would encourage them – maybe shift the priority from just sending out blog posts to building a real-life community that connects via blogs. It might help people move away from the idea that blogging is just for geeks – that they don’t have to fit any pre-conceived stereotypes to be a blogger. Discuss how blogging would fit into their career, values and life. Worth a try?

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2 Responses to “Closing the geek gap”

  1. Elizabeth November 26, 2010 at 1:54 pm #

    Think you’re on to something there. I only really “got it” when I realised I needed to write as if I were talking to a postgrad face-to-face and informally, about something we both cared about.

    I sometimes get asked to insert a post with pre-written text, advertising our events or resources. They’re mostly packed with well-meaning marketing-speak, and I just can’t do it. Feels like it’s polluting the blog!

  2. Michael Clarke November 26, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

    I wonder if anyone’s done any studies comparing career achievements in a given profession by whether people blog or not? Obviously one would expect bloggers to be high achievers 🙂

    Though on which scale we’d be measured as high achievers would be another thing altogether, I suppose…

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