Sunday, May 17, 2009

New Study on Gender and Academia

The abstract of the study says:

"Why aren’t there more women in science? Female college students are currently 37 percent less likely than males to obtain a bachelor’s degree in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and comprise only 25 percent of the STEM workforce. This paper begins to shed light on this issue by exploiting a unique dataset of college students who have been randomly assigned to professors over a wide variety of mandatory standardized courses. We focus on the role of professor gender. Our results suggest that while professor gender has little impact on male students, it has a powerful effect on female students’ performance in math and science classes, their likelihood of taking future math and science courses, and their likelihood of graduating with a STEM degree. The estimates are largest for female students with very strong math skills, who are arguably the students who are most suited to careers in science. Indeed, the gender gap in course grades and STEM majors is eradicated when high performing female students’ introductory math and science classes are taught by female professors. In contrast, the gender of humanities professors has only minimal impact on student outcomes. We believe that these results are indicative of important environmental influences at work. "

The full study may be found here.





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10 comments:

Sra said...

"Indicative of important environmental factors at work." I wonder what that means.

Tina said...

This would be interesting to read. I don't know how it is with others but when I was in college I never paid attention to the gender of my profs. If people want to learn, they'll learn and I do think that most young people are gender-blind. Or at least close to it. Or maybe I'm just too optimistic about the nature of modernity.

Mike said...

I also don't pay attention to professor gender. Information is information. But there is something about higher academia that allowed for a, perhaps, more gender-neutral setting that other fields out there.
I'd like to check out the results of this study.

Dana said...

Hm. I find it interesting that professor gender matters to female students of sciences. I didn't really care much or think about my profs' genders, either.
A professor is a professor who cares if they at times may wear skirts.

Sra said...

I think it's reading too much into this to assume that gender is playing a conscious role here. I don't imagine students are thinking to themselves, oh my science professor is a woman, so I respect her more/less, or anything like that. Rather, I imagine there is a subconscious affect at play here.

I remember reading an article a long time ago about how teachers of both genders tend to subconsciously favor male students in math and science. Things like calling on male students first, etc. It was an interesting article, and I wish I could remember where I read it.

Tina said...

But I also think that not questioning already acquired behavior re: gender and gender roles is another sign of a male-privileged existence.

liam said...

perhaps it would be prudent to figure out why professor gender impacts female students more than male. is it because most of our elementary to high school teachers are female? do female students not accept the switch to male professors as easily as male students because male students are more likely to understand male thought processes? if so, what does this mean for male student relations to female teachers and professors?

Sra said...

Well, this study indicates that the gender affect is really only taking place in the math and science realm. Humanities students are showing no difference. So I don't think this has to do with how well female students are able to adjust to having more male instructors as they progress in their studies.

If I were to guess what's going on here, I'd think that male professors of math and science are perhaps expecting less out of their female students, whereas female instructors expect the same regardless of gender, and I think this behavior would be based on the stereotype that women are not as good at math and science as men. Since the female instructors know this stereotype isn't true (as they themselves are good at math/science), they aren't affected by the stereotype, whereas male instructors are likely more prone to be affected by it.

Nila said...

Academia is as bound to fall prey to gender stereotype as any other setting.
I have noticed that certain majors and field are more of a niche for males. For example philosophy and engineering.....
Wasn't there a study out there that focused on the huge disportionate numbers between males and females in the field?

Nicki said...

At the core here lies the discursive connection between females and the sciences. While there might not be much of a gender bias in the Humanities, there is a different story in the sciences of philosophy, for example.