Last week my husband sent this article from Slate to me and a handful of our friends who have daughters. Entitled “Psych-Out Sexism,” the article shares some important research on the power of the gender of the teacher in encouraging male and female students to pursue (or avoid) engagement in the fields of math and science.
A few of the paragraphs that most got my attention were:
“The psychologists asked female students studying biology, chemistry, and engineering to take a very tough math test. All the students were greeted by a senior math major who wore a T-shirt displaying Einstein’s E=mc2 equation. For some volunteers, the math major was male. For others, the math major was female. This tiny tweak made a difference: Women attempted more questions on the tough math test when they were greeted by a female math major rather than a male math major. On psychological tests that measured their unconscious attitudes toward math, the female students showed a stronger self-identification with math when the math major who had greeted them was female. When they were greeted by the male math major, women had significantly higher negative attitudes toward math.”
Even who greets you makes a difference!
In another experiment, researchers looked at how the gender of the teacher made a difference in the sheer quantity of questions asked:
“At the start of the semester, 11 percent of the female students attempted to answer questions posed to the entire class when the professor was male, and 7 percent of the female students attempted to answer questions posed to the entire class when the professor was female. By the end of the semester, the number of female students who attempted to answer questions posed by a male professor had not changed significantly: Only 7 percent of the women tried to answer such questions. But when classes were taught by a woman, the percentage of female students who attempted to answer questions by the semester’s end rose to 46.”
Read on @FullerYouthInstitute