Women Get Higher Grades In Science From Female Professors
While women do earn higher grades in science courses led by female professors, these role models appear to have little to no direct impact on future course-taking behavior in the subject, finds a new study:
“‘So far, the economic literature has not found strong evidence to support the idea that role models or mentors play a strong role in the college major choices of female students,” says Wake Forest University economics professor Amanda Griffith.
‘Instead, it seems that women learn better from women and earn higher grades as a result. It may be that women share similar learning styles or are more comfortable learning from professors of the same sex. The research suggests there is more behind what happens when women learn from women professors in college than just the fact that the female professor is viewed as a role model.’
The study looked at men and women at a mid-sized institution and their success in a classroom with instructors of the same sex. What makes Griffith’s research unique is that the students studied did not know the gender of the professor teaching the course when they registered for the class.
By controlling for students who might self-select into courses with same gender professors, Griffith’s findings account for the bias inherent in previous research where students chose courses they thought would be academically advantageous to them because of the professor teaching them.
Results showed that college women are likely to earn higher grades if they are enrolled in a science or math class with a female rather than a male professor. And higher achievement in a course may increase the probability that a female college student will continue to study in STEM disciplines.” Read more here.
I have mixed feelings about these findings. Of course we want more women to be enrolling in science courses and entering the STEM disciplines, but I resist the notion that “women share similar learning styles.” Clearly, the issue of how to engage more women in science is a complex one—not dependent only on providing them with “role models”—and requires more attention and research.