Classroom Sexism

Several studies over the years have tried to determine why, despite high achievement in math and science classes, more women do not tend to follow these paths as careers. A new study suggests that female math and science teachers positively affects female students.

I understand this from personal experience,. As a computer engineering student, I was one of a handful of girls in an auditorium of a couple hundred. I never asked questions. I felt that I needed to prove that I belonged there. The stereotype that the male teacher and students believed that I wasn’t as good as they were was reinforced by a particularly embarrassing session with an impatient male teaching assistant, the first and only time I sought after-class help. Asking questions was a sign of weakness that I wasn’t willing to allow in what seemed like hostile territory. I would have felt much more comfortable asking questions to a female professor or TA.

These findings don’t seem like rocket science to me. Of course the 5 female students surrounded by male students and teachers probably feel out of place. The same is probably true of all the minorities in the class. Of course they would feel better if they didn’t feel judged by the people in charge as well as their peers. Has nobody ever thought to ask them?

Resources: Grace Hopper Celebration. BlogHer. Interview with Dame Wendy Hall.