Single-Sex Summer Programs: Showing Us the Future?

March 26, 2020

In recent years, single-gender camps have been increasingly popular amongst young people. Several universities like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Boston University (BU) have launched all-girls programs aimed towards cultivating more girls into the STEM field. These summer programs are important in creating a safe environment that nurtures specific gender-based needs and creates unique experiences.
In co-ed learning atmospheres, there can often be additional stress provoked by the need to impress the opposing gender. Whether it is caring less about one’s appearance or feeling less insecure about their mistakes, single-gender camps create a healthier learning space. Granted this sense of safety from both cultural and social pressures, students’ learning abilities will only increase with fewer distractions caused by external factors.
Gender targeted education provides the absence of gender stereotypes commonly present in the STEM field. Ms. Paula Guzman, a biology teacher at Boston Latin School articulates, “Women face lots of pressure in the STEM field. As women, we have to face the pressures of society thinking we are not as smart and the bias that women may get things (acceptance into programs, schools, jobs) because they are ‘women […].’ We are constantly proving ourselves against a stereotype and really our focus should be the skill set and new ideas we each bring to the table.” Although men and women may face distinct stereotypes frequently perpetrated by the opposite gender, students should not feel the need to be assessed by these standards.
Although it can be argued that these programs are counterintuitive by separating women from the real world, this is a misconception. Surrounding these young adults with those of the same gender not only optimizes their ability to focus but also empowers them to further succeed in life. These programs are designed to build up one’s confidence in the targeted skill set to the point where these girls are able to better compete with their counterparts in the real world.
Similarly, girls enrolled in these programs are exposed to more female role models. Forbes explains that “Men outnumber women by approximately five to one in certain high-paying STEM fields, like computer science and engineering.” Due to this gender imbalance, it is especially important to expose young students to role models that look and face the same challenges as them. Specifically, in STEM, women speakers can share stories about how they overcame challenges in their careers that girls may also encounter later in life.
Given that some issues may be considered a one-sided gender topic, it gives students the opportunity to talk over experiences that they may not normally discuss in other scenarios. “I felt more open about my learning experiences at these STEM camps, but it certainly was more competitive given that everyone there was very focused and driven to succeed in the STEM world,” says Alexandra Jing (III), a former attendant of a MIT STEM all-girls summer program.
She furthers that she highly recommends single-gender camps as they laid the foundations for leadership and concentrated on promoting rich educational values. Camps like these create a unique space for teenagers to connect on another level by placing a larger emphasis on fostering friendships.

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