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A camp teaches girls how to manage money

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On a perfect summer day, the kind that whispers "Come out and play," 21 teenage girls are spending the morning at an unusual camp - indoors, in a sleek conference room high above Boston's financial district.

Seated around a polished table at a brokerage firm, they're learning about a subject new to many of them - saving and investing. It's all part of an innovative two-day financial camp designed to teach girls from sixth grade up the importance of economic responsibility.

This morning's session focuses on stocks. "Has anybody ever heard of an IPO?" asks Meg Greer, a financial consultant at Salomon Smith Barney and founder of the camp. Several heads nod. Mrs. Greer also talks about portfolios, dividends, and blue-chips, giving these Girl Scouts a new vocabulary. This afternoon she'll take them to the Boston Stock Exchange to see markets in action.

Why girls? By many measures, women still lag behind men in their financial knowledge and acumen. And among students, a gender gap in math and finance persists.

Ms. Greer finds girls "a little braver and less inhibited" in the company of other girls when learning math and financial skills. As an example she cites girls who feel intimidated as part of a student investment group at a suburban Boston high school whose members are almost all boys.

Mariko Chang, a professor of sociology at Harvard University, is studying how girls and young women learn about finances and how they decide to spend or save money. She sees several troubling paradoxes.

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