“Smart Girls” with author, Dr. @RobynMcKay

gtchat 10302015 Smart Girls


This week we were joined by Dr. Robyn McKay, co-author of Smart Girls and founder of the website ‘She{ology}’. The discussion centered around smart girls – how they are viewed by society, barriers they face and strategies to use to become successful.

It was quickly pointed out that smart girls often don’t fit society’s image of ‘smart’; nor do they always meet a particular school’s image of ‘smart’. Robyn explained, “Smart girls are often too well-adjusted for their own good. Like chameleons, they adapt and fit in instead of stand out. They begin to hide ability by grade 5. They stop raising their hands in class and whisper the answer to their bff instead.  The trend of hiding ability continues thru high school, college, and their professional life [in adulthood].”

Mental health issues can arise for smart girls. Robyn told us, ” They are good at masking disabilities like anxiety, depression, and ADHD (inattentive type). They mask because they CAN.  Smart girls use their intellectual resources to fit in and manage their disabilities. Just think how creative twice-exceptional smart girls could be if they didn’t have to work so hard to mask anxiety depression or ADHD.”

Next we considered what it meant to be smart and a girl in today’s world. Robyn said, “Intellectually able women often discount their intellect and credit hard work and luck to their success. They often don’t believe that they are smart. Although smart woman are able to juggle many responsibilities and have it all, this can also lead to burn out and early exit from careers.” Add to this that attempts to define ‘smart’ for women have been colored by ideas of gender, race and culture.

“We need to educate all students about gender disparities, inequalities in life and empower them to not just overcome but challenge them.” ~ Tyler Murphy, Kentucky educator

In the book Smart Girls, Dr. McKay and co-author Dr. Barbara Kerr made it a point to leave out definitions of giftedness that include sensitivities, intensities, or overexcitabilities as they focused on talent development. We ask Robyn to clarify this approach. Her response was, “Research has not linked overexcitabilities, intensities or sensitivities to academic achievement, high performance at work, or life satisfaction – the predictions we were interested in. Focus on OE sensitivity or intensity can cause us to pathologize giftedness; to make it seem as if strong, even maladaptive, reactions are a sign of giftedness rather than a sign of a very frustrated, bored or troubled child.”

Then we turned our attention to the barriers smart girls face in having their intelligence recognized. Previous flawed research assumed women could not achieve eminence. Barriers to recognition of intelligence can include environment, race, appearance and privilege. Robyn noted, “Gifted underachievers – who don’t “look gifted” because they don’t get As in every class are often overlooked. Creative girls with uneven performance in school are over looked – get As in the classes they love and and Cs and Ds in the classes that bore them and fail the classes they hate.” Furthermore, Robyn told us, “Smart girls need to know: what’s her IQ? What’s her personality profile? These help her understand why she is the way she is. Armed with data, her self-esteem rises.”

Finally, what are some strategies smart girls can use to succeed in the 21st century? Don’t allow society’s views dissuade your ambition – work toward your passions. For young gifted girls, encourage imaginative play, a healthy diet and adequate sleep. Encourage choices that help girls fulfill their dreams; realize their ‘future self’.

Robyn offered this advice to smart girls, “Don’t date “potential” – don’t date people who aren’t chasing their own goals and dreams. Make career decisions based on your creative flow and strengths. Say “yes” to new experiences. Get support for your mental health. Anxiety, depression, eating disorders keep you from living your dreams. Get As in the classes you love and Bs in everything else. You don’t have to be perfect.”

Transcript of this chat may be found at Storify.

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Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented  is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7E/6C/5M/4P in the U.S., Midnight in the UK and Saturdays Noon NZDT/10 AM AEDT to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.

Head Shot 2014-07-14  About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered        by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime  advocate for gifted children and also blogs at  Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at: gtchatmod@gmail.com


Smart Girls in the 21st Century: Understanding Talented Girls & Women (Amazon)

Gifted Parenting Support: Smart Girls in the 21st Century

Smart Girls Takes Silver in the 2015 Benjamin Franklin Awards

Celebrating Smart Girls in the 21st Century with Dr. Barbara Kerr at The Psychology Podcast

Reviews for Smart Girls in the 21st Century

Dr. Robyn McKay’s Website ‘she{ology}’

About Dr. Robyn McKay

When Intensity Goes to School: Overexcitabilities, Creativity and the Gifted Child (Google Books Preview)

Educated in Romance: Women, Achievement and College Culture (Amazon)

Gifted Girls – Many Gifted Girls, Few Eminent Women: Why? (pdf)

Gifted Women: Identity & Expression

Harnessing Gifted Girls’ Emotional Strengths

What About Gifted Girls

Gender and Genius

Gender Identity and the Overexcitability Profiles of Gifted College Students (pdf)

The Effect of Gender-Role Stereotyping on the Career Aspirations and Expectations of Pre-Adolescent Children of High Intellectual Ability (pdf 1967)

The Intersection of Gender Equity and Gifted Elementary Education: Does Numerical Parity Tell the Whole Story (pdf)

Why Women Still Can’t Have It All

A Mighty Girl (website)

Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.

Posted on November 5, 2015, in Emotional intensity, gifted, Gifted Adults, gifted and talented, Mentoring, Multicultural, Multipotentiality, Neuroscience, Psychology, Social Emotional, Twice-exceptional and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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