For decades, females have been outperforming males academically by all measures – participation in GT/AP classes, high school and college graduation rates, and better grades. Females are more self-regulated, less distracted or prone to procrastination, more organized and better at setting goals and strategizing. Although many women suffer from Impostor Syndrome, many others do not. However, societal perceptions still hinder their success.
Males are perceived to be more difficult by their teachers and receive harsher discipline. Males are over-represented in special education programs and more likely to be identified with learning disabilities such as ASD, dyslexia, and ADHD. All this leads to reduced rates of academic success.
There are many studies regarding the role played by teacher gender in student achievement, but the findings are mixed and don’t indicate a direct correlation. Rather, other factors such as teacher expertise are more important. It has been seen that female teachers in STEM subjects in the middle school years have influence on female students, but rather as a role model. Male student achievement may be affected by the gender of their teacher in elementary school, but more from how teacher’s viewed behaviors and not specifically academics.
How does one’s gender affect academic-related mindsets? Many mindsets that are based on male dominance or risky behaviors lead to thinking academic pursuits are not so important. This increases disciplinary actions or suspensions. Society influences lead boys to think of maleness as being tougher, rebellious, and as someone who prefers to play sports.
School structure is often based on conforming behaviors, following the rules, completing assignments regardless of student interest. This often runs contrary to male prerogatives. More attention needs to be given to student voice and choice, changing disciplinary policies that remove students from the classroom, and consideration of cultural approaches to learning. Many of these issues can be minimized by providing an academic mentor.
How do women translate gains in education into gains in the workplace? Much has been written about a confidence gap for women, regardless of their academic achievements. Stereotypes must be recognized for what they are, and rejected. Male and female teachers can recognize female student academic performance beginning in the middle school years. This is especially important in math where females begin to question their abilities at this critical time. A transcript of this chat may be found at Wakelet.
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Gender and Genius (pdf) (Kerr)
Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.