Posted by: Savonte Chappell | January 30, 2020

Gender Bias in Education

In class we talked about if we have biases or certain expectations when it comes to men and women. These biases and expectations come from what we learn in school. Most of our perspectives on society come from the education system we grew up on if it wasn’t from our parents. The social interactions we face in school recycle and perpetuate these biases. For example really small things such as little kids saying “boys rule and girls drool” and vice versa create a culture that favors one gender over the other and slowly but surely widens the gap. Certain classes that women take and do not take set them up on a path that steers them to inequality. For example in the article, it states that more males take advanced mathematics and science classes than women. The women that are missing out on these classes also miss out on opportunities in higher education and employment. this article briefly revisits our conversation in class about “women can’t do this because……..BABIES”. It also touches on the concept of women avoiding jobs that do not allow for long periods of maternity leave. The way teachers interact with students also adds to the culture. Boys receive more attention and are encouraged to speak up and are taught traits that are valued in male dominated fields and girls are taught the same in female dominated fields.

One part of the article i can relate to is ridiculing womanly traits on man. Things such as crying, showing any other emotion, or lacking strength. i can admit in school when we played kickball in recess i had the mindset of kicking the ball as far as i could to look strong, and i felt a sense of pride when i walked up to the plate and everyone backed up. Versus when a girl went up to kick everyone scooted up. Details like this perpetuate the idea that women are inferior to men. I also admit that i try to avoid crying too, although i do cry at certain things, but as a “man” i try my hardest not to cry.

After reading this article, do you believe our education system perpetuates the culture? Do you think teachers and administration should crack down on these behaviors? Change the curriculum or teaching methods? Have you had any experiences in school where one gender was favored over another? Are you guilty of perpetuating the culture?

Click to access issue02Dec.IJEMSp05.pdf


Responses

  1. I definitely think that our education system perpetuates this culture. In high school, my counselor told me that he did not think I was “prepared” for AP Chem, even though I had previously been in AP bio the year prior, and received an A. When I told him that I wanted to take the class regardless, he asked me if I wanted to do something with science after high school, because if I wasn’t going to study it in college, then “what’s the point?” My high school counselor who was supposed to help me choose my classes, was trying to steer me away from AP Chem. It never made sense to me, and I took the class anyways out of spite. It was until recently that I thought that he has deliberately trying to keep me out of the class, which is horrible.

    Outside of this experience, preference for one gender is learned in elementary school at a young age. I have observed this behavior first hand when I student taught. When students finish their class work early, they are allowed to do a “free activity” until the teacher is ready to move forward. On a table, was crayons and coloring sheets for the girls to pick up, and on the other side of the table, were legos for the boys to pick up and play with. On on occasion, a boy went a picked up a coloring sheet and crayons, and a bunch of his peers made comments about him being “such a girl.” This relates to when you explained that you even try not to cry. It is sad that boys are not allowed to engage in parts of the normal human experience, because society will view them as “girls.”

    This hegemonic masculinity will only further perpetuate boys into being less open with their feelings, and will make girls feel like they are lesser, as boys are explicitly told not to “act like a girl.”

    Administration should crack down on this because they are the adults that are viewing these behaviors from an outsider perspective. They are the ones with more social knowledge, that can ultimately shape the minds of students in a more positive manner. Disciplinary action should be taken against students who perpetuate negative behaviors against their peers based on how they perform their gender. Especially with developments that are made every day, and how each day our society strives to move forward and become more progressive, schools and their administrations should mirror that.

  2. I think that school plays a large role in the gender biases we learn. Generally speaking, the youth spends about 6 hours in school 5 days a week. With that being said their thoughts and actions are going to be influenced by the things said by those who are constantly around them. While educators play a large role in this influence, peers also have great influence on one’s mind. I think it is really important for kids to be taught equally and encouraged to reach goals of their highest potential regardless of gender.

    In high school I took a lot of science and math classes. I remember that my IB biology class was female dominated but my math classes were more male dominated. In my biology class the males did seem to receive more attention but at the time I didn’t think anything of it. Additionally, in these classes the males were more likely to just blurt out answers regardless of them being correct. The females in my class were fairly reserved when answering wanting to ensure that they were 100% before attempting to answer the question. I think that this need to be perfect ties into the idea that women must outdo men to be equal to them.

    Overall, I believe that a lot of the biases and societal norms learned occur in school. Children’s minds are malleable and easily influenced. Educators must be aware of the ways they teach and do their best to hold each gender to the same standards. That way there as many male and female dominated fields, they would be equally representative.

  3. I do think that our educational system plays a huge role in how boys and girls view one another. In elementary school, I was friends with mostly girls. We are taught that boys are “gross” and girls have “cooties” or whatever similar stereotype we hear when we are young. I volunteer with a second-grade class and I see firsthand the competitiveness that boys have when completing their work. They tend to be louder about their progress and want to show others what they have done. The girls on the other hand, tend to work quietly and to themselves, they will want to show me what they have done but not announce it to their peers. This observation goes back to our discussion of how males are more likely to blurt out incorrect answers or apply for jobs that they are not 100% qualified for. Males tend to have more self confidence in their educational skills than females.

    I found another article that shows the gender bias in our education system. The author was completing a study on gender achievement. He found that there was no gender gap in scores or how teachers viewed boys and girls in kindergarten. However, after kindergarten the gender gap begins to widen. The article also discusses how girls need to work harder in order to be considered equal to boys. This was seen in a section of the article when they gathered a group of elementary teachers to discuss the gender issue. One of the teachers said, “Now, I don’t even understand why you’re looking at girls’ math achievement. These are my students’ standardized test scores, and there are absolutely no gender differences. See, the girls can do just as well as the boys if they work hard enough.” As soon as she said it, she realized that she had subconsciously viewed the boys as innately good at math, while girls needed to work for it. This is one of the major problems with the gender gap, many teachers don’t realize that they have different views for boy’s and girl’s achievement. In order to achieve the view of girls being equal to boys, there needs to be a shift in society, where everyone believes that women and men are capable of the same accomplishments.

    https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2018/04/23/how-our-education-system-undermines-gender-equity/

  4. I would definitely say that our education system perpetuates our societal norms and culture, because of everything you stated in your post. The subtlest of comments can discourage girls from feeling as though they are equal to boys, discouraging them from an extremely young age from even trying.

    Speaking from personal experience, I have had many times where I felt as though males were being favored over myself. The time that frustrated me the most actually took place during my college career. During my spring semester freshman year, I took an American Studies class and I was one of about three girls in a class of almost 30. This ratio did not really phase me because I’ve taken male dominated classes before and have never had a problem. However, quickly into the beginning of the semester I began to notice an issue. My professor absolutely favored the men in the class over the women. To provide some specific examples, our class was heavily based on group presentations with which our professor would assign the groups. It was very common that I would be the only woman in my group simply because of the ratio of the class. After giving our presentations and receiving our grades I began to notice that every time I did a presentation, I would receive a lower grade on the presentation than the other members in my group with no explanation. This proved to be true with the other two women in my class. Another example, my personal favorite, was when one of my male classmates turned in one of our biweekly short papers nearly a week late and received an A. Myself, on the other hand, turned in my short paper on time but I went exactly two words over the word count, which was clarified as not being strict, and I had 25 point taken off of my paper grade. The entire class was incredibly discouraging to myself and the other women in the class, making it incredibly difficult to succeed.

    Addressing your comment on mathematics, and going off of what we discussed in class, I also have personal experience with this. Math was, and always has been, my favorite subject by far. I am very good at math, I took AP Calculus when I was a sophomore in high school and received a 5 on the exam without any problems. However, since I was always taught that math is a “masculine” subject I never wanted to pursue it. I’ve always loved doing math but it has always stressed me out because I was terrified of being wrong or messing up, something my male counterparts never seemed to be concerned with. Now that my major has nothing to do with math, I never really do it anymore besides helping my friends with calculus, but for the most part I never do it anymore, which is sad. Unfortunately, this is part of our educational system’s flaws.

  5. Something weird for me about coming to college was having my first male teacher. From kindergarten through high school I never had a male teacher for anything other than gym class. I think this was very empowering to me to have such strong female figures in my life. My calculus teacher was one of the smartest ladies I knew and she could lay down the law of the land like no one else. My tutor for high school calculus (when I started getting below an A… because that wasn’t acceptable) was also a female and still to this day is one of my biggest mentors. I would like to think that due to my unique situation I was that I was more empowered as a female student.. but I think in some ways more pressure was put on me to be successful by them. If I didn’t do too well on a test/quiz/assignment I was always told to do better and that it wasn’t good enough, but when male students got similar scores they were praised. I feel like these teachers wanted to push the female students to be the best they could be but didn’t always understand where exactly that best was for us, and tried to push us beyond that.

  6. I think that gender stereotypes are definitely perpetuated in schools, starting at a young age. Something I remember starting to notice when I was in elementary school and even more so from volunteering in elementary school classrooms now is the difference in language used both by teachers and students to address boys and girls. The small comments that people wouldn’t think twice about really do play a role in establishing gender roles. I remember in elementary school being told by teachers not do something because it’s not “ladylike”. If a boy were to engage in the same wrong behavior, he would still be disciplined, but the language would obviously change to align with gender. Another thing that I always heard was when teachers needed help lifting something and would ask some “strong boys” to help them. I find this especially interesting since often times the teacher asking was female, perpetuating the stereotype that women need the help of men to do anything physical or that requires strength. Recently, I was volunteering in a kindergarten classroom working with small groups. One of the groups was all girls and one of them said to me “don’t worry we’re all girls so we’ll be a good group”. Even at a young age, girls understand that they are supposed to be the good, well behaved ones while it is expected for boys to not be as well behaved just because they’re boys.
    In middle and high school, I can’t really remember there being a big divide between boys and girls in the higher level math and science classes, I remember them being relatively equal. However one thing that immediately came to mind when thinking about differences in classes was an elective offered in my middle school called life management. This class basically taught kids how to sew, cook, and take care of a baby, which are considered womanly duties Of course, this course was taken primarily by female students, while males took more academic related electives.
    Overall, I think that school is one of the biggest institutions that does perpetuate and reinforce gender stereotypes. If teachers, starting in elementary school and continuing to higher education, make a conscious effort to think about how they do enforce these stereotypes and how they could adjust their word choice and actions to be more equal across genders, a difference could start to me made in the right direction.

  7. My experience with the gender bias in the education system is a little different than the typical. From sophomore year on I went to a governor’s school for marine and environmental science where I took all of my STEM subjects. The teachers in the program were a majority male and the students were majority female. Though there were more girls in my classes the boys were still the first ones to answer questions, to speak out of turn, cause trouble in the classroom, and to jump at an opportunity when teachers asked for volunteers. The girls were typically rushing to take down notes and stayed relatively silent as to keep the place that they had worked hard to earn in this accelerated program. The top grades in our program were typically earned by the girls, but those who were talking the loudest in classes were the boys. This is definitely a microcosm of the STEM world today with the only difference being the sheer number of females being lower in the professional world. Women are just as capable, test the same, if not higher than men, and still take a back seat. I saw the same behavior present in our teachers. There were never more than two female teachers at a time on a team of seven, and our secretary was also a female. The female teachers were just as qualified as their male counterparts, but were typically less likely to take command of a classroom in the same way. During school trips the female teachers would often defer to the male teachers for providing instructional information. If the female teachers showed any kind of authoritative attitude she was immediately thought of as overbearing or demanding whereas authoritativeness was second nature to the male teachers. This translated to the students as the male teachers were widely well liked and the female teachers criticized at any chance. The students adopted the same roles as they saw their teachers adopt. The girls in our classes rarely spoke out of turn, and when they did they were met with scrutiny, and the boys oozed with confidence even when they were wrong. Even in a female dominated schooling situation the gender biases were still at play.

  8. I would say that the American education system is definitely one of the biggest influences on gender discrimination/biases. I want to start with an example I am familiar with; the idea that teaching is a woman’s job. I didn’t have a male teacher until 5th grade, and even then, I rarely had a male teacher after that. I remember thinking that it was weird to have a male teacher, and I went to his female counterparts with problems I had because I was not comfortable going to him with issues. This prominence of female teachers meant that I was not exposed to the gender biases others commented on above, where male teachers were regarded with more authority over the female teachers, however, living in a male-dominated but female taught town meant I saw parents and children behaving in very different ways when it came to teachers. Fathers and sons showed a lot more disrespect when it came to addressing female teachers, while mothers and daughters were more respectful. When it came to my male teacher, the opposite was true.

    I also saw a lot of these biases between the students themselves. Boys were not chastised as often as girls for things such as cutting in line, even though they did these things more often. The boys were expected to play kickball and physical games during recess, while the girls played house and tea party. If someone of the opposite gender came and asked to play, they were automatically seen as weird or odd. The girls were also expected to take cooking and home ec when we got to middle school, whereas the boys were expected to take shop.

    These gender biases are ingrained in us as young as kindergarten, and are promoted majorly by the school system.

  9. After reading other people’s comments, and seeing that everyone (myself included), has either seen or experienced gender biases in the American education system, I started Googling what articles and papers now suggest to prevent the gender biases that start at such a young age. One website (https://sharemylesson.com/blog/gender-bias-classroom-five-ways-help) listed ways to help reduce gender bias within elementary school settings. There is even a 36-page manual attached that offers information on how to practice creating an anti-bias environment as a teacher. Googling “prevent gender bias in elementary schools” gave 12.7 million results. I think the abundance of sources linked to this phrase goes to show the effort, the push, to break down the stereotypes that were reinforced when we, as elementary students in the early 2000s, had.

    I think the encouragement females now receive to stay in STEM courses once they have a choice in classes (usually by high school) is a great response to the lingering stigmas surrounding women in STEM. As a female in STEM, I have seen people’s biases protrude through my education, but I am encouraged by the older women that I know in STEM who have helped paved a slightly easier way through the labyrinth for me.

  10. I agree that gender bias is perpetuated in school. As youths, we spend six hours a day, five days out of the week confined to classrooms. In this environment our purpose is to learn, so we absorb social skills within this environment as well. I believe that gender stereotypes are pushed on both men and women. I remember in gym class, the boys and girls were often split up to play separate games against the same gender, rather than mixing them together. Whenever we were mixed, boys were often shocked when girls were actually good at the sport we were playing, rather than it just being accepted for the boys.
    I would like to highlight on the point you made about boys being told not to cry. I have a specific memory in my first grade classroom when one of my male classmates was crying because another girl in the class wouldn’t share with him. Instead of ressolving the issue, the teacher told him that men don’t cry and if he wants to be a big strong man one day he shouldn’t cry. This did seem to stop his crying for the time being, but in the fact that it was almost a threat in if he wanted to fill his role as a strong man, he can’t show his true emotion. I remember thinking at this time that her reaction didn’t seem right because if the roles were reversed and the girl was the one crying because the boy wasn’t sharing, she would have just told him to share with her. I think that encouraging men to show emotion will make them more sensitive and in turn, more emotionally intelligent in society. Emotional intelligence allows people to understand their environment better as well as other people, and I believe this would aid in men being less seceptable to biases towards women, if they developed the skills to be more understanding towards people who are different than them. I know this does not encompass all men, but in my own life I’ve experienced a pattern in men who are more in tune with their own emotions and their level of respect towards others who aren’t just authority figures or their friends.

  11. I think it is very important that boys and girls learn how to operate in society without feeling the pressure of gender norms or pressure on controlling their emotions, just because everyone tells them they should. Being in school is part of one’s formative years, and that’s the place where many are going to learn how to respect others, how to interact with their peers, and how to be a leader. I find it interesting that so many of these ideas about what it means to be a “boy” or a “girl” are taught and passed down through not only teachers and our curriculum, but our parents, family, and friends. By instilling and perpetuating the values that they were taught, we are continuing to foster a generation of young women who think that they can’t contribute in a male-dominated field like STEM or business. Or that men can’t be emotionally available enough for careers such as childcare or hospitality. It is the job of educators and also families to change the narrative for these young children, and I am so glad that programs are being created to foster these types of opportunities for them.

    There is evidence out of Sweden that having gender-neutral preschools can actually help foster these environments. But not policing what children wear or how they style their hair or the toys they play with, children grow up being a lot more adaptable and sensitive to people, more so than those who are taught that boys play with trucks and girls play with dolls. If you think about it, it is very limiting and when eliminated, it can help erase those gender stereotypes that lead to domestic violence, social rejection, and the double binds that many men and women grow to find themselves in. Growing up with a twin brother, we both played with a variety of toys, but I definitely remember the comments made in particular towards my brother about wanting to play dress up with me, or towards me for wanting to help cut the grass. I definitely would encourage more conversations about how to engage with children, especially at school age, so that they are able to grow in to more successful and adaptable leaders.


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