Why do talented, gifted girls so often fail to realize their potential as they reach adolescence and adulthood? This outstanding book explores this question and offers practical advice to parents, teachers, and policy-makers about ways to help gifted girls continue to grow and succeed.
Dr. Kerr also presents current research on gifted girls; summarizes biographies about eminent women, their lives, and achievements; and examines the current educational and family environment.
- Time alone: girls need swaths of time alone to think and dream
- Mentors: all women (and men) who achieve to the top of their fields have mentors who guide and support them along the way, introducing them into the circles that draw them upwards. Virtually none of the "average" achieving women followed had mentors during their schooling and early work years. We need to teach our girls the importance of mentors and help them find them!
- Same sex education, especially high school and college. As it turns out our "culture of romance" is poison to the smart girls potential. Messages that turn adolescent girls' focus from capability and achievement to beauty and relationship essentially stop them dead in their intellectual tracks. Same sex schools not only remove much of the romantic focus from girls' daily routines, but also provide many more opportunities for mentoring and modeling by self-actualized women.
- Voracious reading of anything and everything
- Rejection of gender limitations
- Strong sense of self: My interpretation of this is that we need to grow young women who are deeply healthy and strong emotionally. They need to know who they are, and who they aren't and take responsibility for themselves. They need to be practiced at knowing and expressing what they want and need. Our girls need to be willing to "grow thorns" and say what they mean, not be driven to always be compliant and kind. And they need to be able to hold onto themselves as they enter relationships, not losing their "I" to the "We," both in personal and community situations.
- Definitions of successful - Kerr does a lovely job of expressing her concerns about using job status and salary as measures of success. As a researcher, she does in the end come up against the truth that no has yet figured out a way to measure a woman's level of performance and achievements as mother or homemaker. I find myself wondering how I define my own success for both of these jobs as well as homeschool teacher.
- Self-actualization - Kerr uses Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to help her approach the idea of successful people and for defining her terms. In a book that focuses on the high achievement of gifted girls, it makes sense to keep a careful eye on self-actualization as opposed to just outward success. I really admire how Kerr handled this section of the book, for both her treatments of definition of success and self-actualization. She concludes that self-actualization (achieving one's highest potential in a given vocation) is not optional for gifted women, carefully opening up the definition of vocation to include essentially any idea a woman could fall in love with and pursue. What really struck me about her point of view is that she sees actualization as essential not just for us as individuals, but for our society as a whole.
- The "false" choice - career vs. family. My mental gears are really churning on this one. According to the book, "integrators" who have both a career and families rate happiest among all women. Kerr posits that these women have simultaneously fulfilling and thriving careers and healthy, thriving children. Steeped in the doctrine of attachment parenting and homeschooling these past 8 years, I'm not sure I see her numbers adding up. Also, counting among my close friends single career women, integrators and stay at home moms, I'm not sure I can tag just one group as "happy." But I'm open to the idea...
- 14 year olds and 40 year olds. Studies show that self-esteem drops sharply for girls right around the age of 14. It continues low until women reach 40 and then self-esteem returns to high levels. Kerr has satisfying explanations for both sides of the equation. Coming up on my 40th birthday, I'm fascinated by this trend. Mostly what an improved level of self-esteem and greater drive for self-actualization might look like in my life over the next 10 years. As a missed smart girl, is it still possible for me to self-actualize as I reach mid-life or is it too late?