Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Are Aussie Girls Bad at Chess?

Just the other day, I read a blog post by GM Ian Rogers in which he observed the differences between the performances of Aussie female chess players and their Indonesian sisters.

Australia currently has more stand-out male juniors – though we lost 3.5-6.5 in an internet match against the Academy students in 2012 – but there is a chasm between the two countries in the development of girl players and Australia is falling further behind.  
A major difference appears to be cultural factors – something which is evident in the attitude of the girls players at the Academy. In Indonesia there is no stigma for a teenage girl to enjoy chess (or mathematics for that matter); in Australia plenty of our strongest young female players have succumbed to peer pressure and quit rather than lose friends. [The emphasis is mine].

It turns out that now GM Rogers can turn to something called "stereotype threat" in explaining why Aussie females perform suboptimally, or at least not as well as the Indonesian females."Stereotype threat" is a very interesting concept and could have practical applications. For example, coaches need to be wary and, in fact, proactively maintain teaching environments that avoid female stereotypes. But, of course, there is only so much coaches like GM Rogers can do. Society's pressures are often hard to resist, more so for girls.

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