Ronda Rousey, an Olympian and former UFC champion, destroyed the fighting world’s glass
ceiling, bringing women into a sport whose own president had previously stated would never
welcome women. Gifted both athletically and academically, Rousey credits her mother’s
support for her success and perseverance. Instead of leading her to safer and more traditional
female roles, Rousey’s mother pushed her daughter to become a stronger, greater fighter.1
Rousey is an extreme example of the pressures facing gifted
girls, who often see unrealized and unfulfilled potential as a result
of societal pressures to make the choice between being smart and
fitting in.2 Unfortunately, gender stereotypes may be perpetuated
by teachers, who have been shown to more frequently call on boys
at times provide girls less rigorous tasks than their male
and even overtly “like smart girls less than other students.”5
Clearly, social norms against girls are pervasive and prevalent.
How to Help Gifted Girls from Home
So, what can be done to level the playing field and help gifted
girls? Like Rousey’s mother, parents of gifted girls should empower
their daughters to feel they can succeed in any field. They need
to actively work to build confidence in their daughters, since with
self-confidence comes less of a need to hide their gifts and talents
to fit in. Parents need to assure their daughters that how they
are is how they should be, and there is no need to change to gain
Beyond the vital importance of developing your child’s
self-worth, there are some specific actions you can take to
positively influence your gifted girl in the academic world.
Encourage your gifted daughter to take higher-level classes
from which she might normally shy away. Boys rate themselves
as being better in math, science, and history, even when grades
don’t support these beliefs.6
While the gender gap in STEM is
closing in math and science, it is simultaneously widening in
National Association for Gifted Children | December 2017 19
technology, and boys are still scoring higher on math and science
sections of tests.7
With this disparity often starting in middle
school, girls are led away from higher-paying STEM–based
fields such as medicine and engineering. Support and encourage
your daughter’s interest in STEM. With parental guidance and
support, female students will be more likely to take these classes
Find a mentor. This allows your daughter to connect with
someone who has been in her place and gone through many of the
difficult emotions she is encountering. It can also help in showing
that any goals and dreams are achievable, in any field. Your gifted
daughter can identify with another gifted woman, and realize her
Seek out peers, too. Being able to connect with peers similar
to themselves is also useful for gifted girls. Depending on her
interests, seek out leadership activities, athletics, or academic
competitions. Join a local Girl Scout troop, which by design
promotes a positive and empowering view of females, leadership
abilities, problem solving, and healthy supportive friendships.8
Or, look into local and school sports, as well as the Girls on the
Run program, which teaches girls about self-empowerment and
social skills to help them succeed. Many academic programs exist
as well. Science Club for Girls is a Massachusetts-based STEM
program for girls that seeks to close the gender gap in STEM
fields, while also assisting the social and emotional development
of the girls involved.
Use bibliotherapy to model positive influences.
Bibliotherapy allows students to read novels or biographies about people with whom they can connect to based on their
interests or the difficulties they are encountering. While
therapy is in the name itself, it does not need to be an
intensive process or require a licensed professional. Instead,
reading a biography can help your daughter feel less alone.
It also lets her see ways issues like hers have been successfully
resolved. Knowing how others worked through their
problems can help inspire gifted girls on what actions to
take in their own life.
Tom Hébert, professor of gifted education at the
University of South Carolina, suggests novels such as Celine
by Brock Cole, The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger,
and Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee, all of which are
for middle school and high school girls. Also included in his
book are many suggestions for biographies including those
women in traditionally male fields, such as politics and
sports. These books include Madam Secretary: A Memoir
by Madeleine Albright, Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature
by Linda Lear, and The Home Team: Of Mothers, Daughters,
and American Champions by RuthAnn and Rebecca Lobo.9
Advocate for professional development classes on gender
equity practices at your daughter’s school. Many times,
gender biases in the classroom are not intentional, but the
result of subconscious feelings from teachers and administrators.
Helping teachers become more aware of their
actions will help them to correct it. It is likely a lack of
awareness and research that has stalled progress,10 and by
parent advocates campaigning for awareness, it is possible
to make changes.
Furthermore, by modeling support in your home,
teachers may begin to see the impact of this support and
realize they have a future historian, author, mathematician,
artist, scientist, or creator waiting to blossom in their
Gifted girls face many social issues in their lives that
impact their education and interests from a young age.
Gifted girls need the support of an understanding parent—
like Ronda Rousey’s mother—to nurture their gifts. With
strong familial and peer support, as well as the use of bibliotherapy
and parent advocacy in the school, gifted girls can
flourish and thrive while they learn to use and appreciate
Greenspon, Thomas S. (2012). Moving past perfect: How perfectionism
may be holding back your kids (and you!) and what you can do about it.
Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit.
Isaacson, K. (2002). Raisin’ brains: Surviving my smart family.
Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press.
Kamp, K. (2012, November 13). What society would look like if
women were equal to men [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://
Kerr, B. A., & McKay, R. (2014). Smart girls in the 21st century:
Understanding talented girls and women. Tucson, AZ: Great Potential
Reis, S. (2002). Social and emotional issues faced by gifted girls in
elementary and secondary school. The SENG Newsletter, 2(3), 1–5.
Reis, S. (2003). Gifted girls, twenty-five years later: Hopes realized and
new challenges found. Roeper Review, 25(4), 154–157.
Lauren Broome teaches math and science to middle school
students at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic School in Savannah,
GA. With a bachelor’s degree from Armstrong State University,
she recently received her master’s degree from the University
of Georgia in May 2017. She is pursuing a doctorate degree to
continue research on understanding and helping gifted girls.
Rousey, R. (2015). My fight/your fight. New York, NY: Regan Arts.
Reis, S., and Hébert, T. (2008). Gender and giftedness. In Pfeiffer, S. I.
(Ed.), Handbook of giftedness in children (pp. 271–291).
New York, NY: Springer.
Sadker, D. (1999, April). Gender equity: Still knocking at the classroom
door. Educational Leadership, 22–26.
Rosser. [Video file.] Retrieved from https://youtu.be/buo1AaK1pPM
Reis et al., (2008).
Reis et al., (2008).
Girl Scout Research Institute. (2014). How girl scouting benefits girls.
Retrieved from www.girlscouts.org/research
Hébert, T. (2011). Understanding the social and emotional lives of gifted
students. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.
10 Sadker, (1999).
Copyright 2017 NAGC. Reprinted with permission of the National Association for Gifted Children http://www.nagc.org. No further reprints are permitted without the consent of NAGC.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
The appearance of any information in the Davidson Institute's Database does not imply an endorsement by, or any affiliation with, the Davidson Institute. All information presented is for informational purposes only and is solely the opinion of and the responsibility of the author. Although reasonable effort is made to present accurate information, the Davidson Institute makes no guarantees of any kind, including as to accuracy or completeness. Use of such information is at the sole risk of the reader.