On Gender

Scanning through the faces of the students staring at me, I try to address everyone equally – as any professional teacher would. Yet even with my teacher’s hat on, I can’t help but notice a divide within my class.

22 kids walk into room 236 every A day at 1:48. There are 8 girls and 14 boys enrolled. Only two genders are represented in the room and while there are still more boys than girls, the difference has shrunk significantly over the past several years. Over the past two years, the numbers of girls who take classes such as robotics or computer science have increased by 60 percent, once unverified source has said, and I am willing to guess that two years ago there would be far less than 8 girls in an entrepreneurship class. While just like robotics and programming, entrepreneurship has no gender bias associated to the course, these jobs and classes were traditionally filled by men. Yet with the recent increase in female business leaders’ success stories such as Lean In and Arianna Huffington, the field of tech – and with it invention – seems to be becoming less gender favorable.

While the numbers are similar, there are several differences in the way these two genders in my class act. First, every women is making a non profit and every boy is making a for-profit company. Without exception. This says a ton. What it does not mean to me is that men aren’t interested in helping people and that women aren’t interested in making money. That’s too tertiary of an analysis.

When I asked people why they were taking this class, everyone put that “college apps” was one of their top reasons, along with “my parents made me” and “I didn’t pick this class, I wanted a free period.” Both classic responses.

So if we are to assume that a main reason why people in this class are working on their project is in the hopes that one day their work can be apparent in a college application, then we can assume that both genders are working in part for the praise of a third party. Girls aren’t only helping the homeless, they are also helping the admissions staff see a civically engaged applicant. Boys aren’t only trying to make a successful product, they are also showing the admissions staff that they are creative and wise beyond their years.

If you agree that this is true, then we can understand a huge difference between men and women.

Men (for profit entrepreneurs) tend to show horizontal thinking, and women (nonprofit entrepreneurs) are vertical thinkers.

Horizontal thinking is the idea that if I work super super hard right now and over the course of the next several years, what I do now can shape my future. It means that the work I am doing today can be work that I spend time on for during college and after. The groundwork and the skills that I create from my t shirt company will not only help me in the future, but I may in fact continue work in this field.

As a teacher, I see examples of horizontal thinking. HT (horizontal thinking) is based on the idea that if I find the perfect idea now, in the future this base will allow me to be successful. My male students get incredibly passionate about their idea. They tell all their friends about their t shirt company. They post about it on social media and work hard on it outside of school. Subconsciously, their goal is that in thirty years, they will be working on this same type of project. Males tend to throw themselves into their passions at a younger age, in the hope that in the future they may have the same career. Boys who are interested in clothing make clothing. Boys who are interested in technology are making technology. They work on now what they want to work on in 10 years.

Vertical thinking is the notion that the future is what is most important and whatever I have to do to get me there, I will do. It is the idea that we are on a ladder, going up and up until we can get to where we want to go. That is what it takes to run a nonprofit.

The girls in my class don’t have great interest in being teachers or activists. They wish to be doctors or lawyers or CEOs. Yet they choose to teach for underprivileged students and become an activist for homeless people because they know that it will be valuable in the future. It will help them get a job or a good college then a for-profit organization – which is true. They are far more long game oriented, far more strategic and would rather work on something they are less passionate about now so they can be successful in the future then start doing what they want to do in 20 years right now.

The downside of horizontal thinking is it requires an incredible idea. This leads all the boys in my class to change their idea so many times until they can find one they are satisfied with. 90 percent of success is just starting, and boys have trouble choosing one idea and sticking to it. They get distracted, and are constantly in the tweaking phase. If you tell them this, they are less likely to listen to you, because they know what it is they have in mind they want to be, and no one should dare persuade them.

The downside with vertical thinking is it leads to a lot of girls not super loving the work they do. While they work very hard, many remark how much more fun it would be make money printing shirts then creating book drive donations for preschoolers. However, they think that the nonprofit will help them climb the ladders of success easier.

So I have found.
This article is about the class that I am teaching and all the conclusions I draw are backed up from observations I have made inside my class. In this article, I try to find patterns in humanity and make huge assumptions that obviously have exceptions.

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