GIRLS AND INVENTION

IFIA (International Federation of Inventors' Associations) 2000

 

This IFIA page was launched on
October 16, 2000.

Our first article is written by
Farag Moussa, IFIA Honorary President, and is entitled
  Come On Girls.

 

COME ON, GIRLS !

By Dr. Farag Moussa
Honorary President of the International Federation of Inventors' Associations (IFIA)

There appears to be no difference between girls and boys with regard to creativity up to the age of 10 years, when girls begin to realize that they are "only girls". They start lacking confidence in themselves while boys' self-confidence is increasing - particularly when dealing with tools, mechanics, techniques, and so on. In mixed groups, boys tend to dominate: they demand more attention, and get it.

As a result very few girls join science clubs. The problem is both sociological and psychological. First, in the family, parents just don’t see their daughter as a technician or scientist. Secondly, even if they do, the girl will often be influenced by other girls at school, who will tell her, "Don’t be silly, that's not for us".

All this is particularly true between 13 and 14 years old, a critical age. Girls don’t feel at ease because of the boys' presence. And as competition plays an important role in science clubs, girls are not ready to compete with boys. They are afraid they will compare unfavorably.

For these reasons, an organization called Technika 10 (logo: see drawing) was set up in Holland, in 1986. Its aim was to create technology clubs and courses for girls only, in the 10 to 12 age group. Managed by women, Technika 10 aspires to generate girls' interest in technology before they enter secondary school. "At Technika 10, girls are among themselves, in a safe environment, and can build their self-confidence", the coordinator of Technika 10 told me. She added that it seemed to her that the girls are more mature: "Boys apparently have fun when things explode, make big noises or smoke, while girls often find this just silly".

In the year 2000, more than 200 girls-only technology clubs exist in over 100 cities in Holland.  These clubs reached some 10,000 girls in 1999.  Technika 10 girls work with wood and metal, repair bicycles, study photography, electricity, computers, etc. Just like boys.

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Another difficulty with girls resides in the fact that they lack role models. School texts and popular sience books only offer male-role models with which girls cannot identify. It is important to fill that gap, portraying women inventors, be they Nobel Prize winners, scientists, housewives, or just schoolgirls.  (Visit IFIA Web page on Women)

I definitely refuse the preconceived ideas which dictate that women are not gifted for the study and application of technical subjects, or that girls are not interested in invention contest. Proof : experience in several countries shows that the percentage of girls taking part in invention contests for the young increases year after year, provided special attention and encouragement is given to them.

In Sweden, for example, only 12% of the participants were girls when the every 3-year students' contest, Finn Upp, started in 1979. Twelve years later (1991) the number of participating girls was equivalent to that of boys. And there continued to be as many girls as boys participating in the next two contests (1994 and 1997), while the percentage reached 56% in the year 2000 contest! It is to be noted that the Swedish Inventors' Association (SUF) is one of the organizers of this student contest.

 

12%

24%

37%
43%
51%
50%
50%
56%

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1979

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1983

 

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1985

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1988

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1991

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1994

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1997

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2000

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