Remember the group project? That horrible amalgamation of weird middle school pressures combined with some random assignment meant to foster both learning and teamwork? Maybe you had to design and build a mini-terrarium for fish out of a plastic bottle. Or write a play exploring the history of Rome. Or simply work with your classmates to complete a worksheet about the chapter you just read.
Left to their own devices, kids usually divide the labor for group projects. The way they divide that labor matters, and is the root of a pet theory of mine, based on anecdotes and a little bit of research that goes like this: More often than not, a girl winds up in one particular role every time. The secretary. Maybe her teacher calls it the "recorder" or the "data collector" or the "stenographer." But whatever it is, she’s writing everything down. She’s the organized one, the one with the good handwriting, the one who cares about actually filling out the worksheet. The ones who get to be creative, who get to goof off and riff ideas and not worry about the form or the specific assignment tasks? They're mostly boys.
This isn’t to say that being the secretary is devoid of usefulness. Those girls will take those organizational skills with them as they grow up. They’ll become organized adults, women who keep calendars in order and complete tasks in on time and get their kids to soccer practice. The boys will take their skills with them, too: the ability to riff, the disregard for the rules, the ability to be creative without worrying about the specific parameters of the project. They’ll fit right in as the idea guy—the creative, if a bit wacky, tech CEO.