Male Students Underestimate Intelligence of Female Classmates
It’s fairly common knowledge that women are under-represented in science, technology, engineering, and math, areas of study generally grouped together under the acronym STEM. Now research published in PLOS One suggests a root cause of that is plain and simple -- male bias.
Surveying 1,500 undergraduate students from three classes over the period of a college quarter yielded very clear results.
Men were more likely to rate other male peers as especially competent and knowledgeable over women. This was true even after accounting for performance and a willingness to speak out loud in class (men had a slight edge in both). In all three classes, men were nominated as the three to four smartest students by the majority of the class, despite the presence of outspoken women who excelled equally.
To put the bias into numbers, researchers concluded that an outspoken women would need to have a 3.765 GPA in order to have as good a chance at being nominated the smartest student as would a man with a 3.00 GPA.
There are well documented studies showing the effects of bias seen at the undergraduate and graduate level, from faculty members spending more time mentoring male students to being more likely to answer e-mails from males.
The study team offers two simple changes to begin to counteract these inequalities -- randomly calling on students rather than waiting for someone to raise their hands, and/or hiring more female faculty to serve as role models.