In educated, progressive societies around the world, we tell our children that boys and girls are equally smart and capable and we know this to be true. We have policies on non-discrimination for gender, race, and sexual orientation.
We are firm in our beliefs that women and men are both capable of being tremendous leaders, equally capable of running businesses and leading academic institutions. Yet very few women are sitting in these top positions, and we wonder why? Are women not trying? Surely not. So then, are we unconsciously keeping them down? As it turns out, yes we are.
The results show:
It starts early and has long-term effects
Maybe the most surprising fact is how early the gender bias begins. In a recent study of elementary school teachers, girls outscored boys in exams when graded anonymously, but boys outscored the girls when graded by teachers who knew their names.
The study, which took place in Israel, spanned 10 years worth of data, following three sets of students from 6-12th grade.
As reported in the NY Times 'The effect was not the same for tests on other subjects, like English and Hebrew. The researchers concluded that in math and science, the teachers overestimated the boys’ abilities and underestimated the girls’, and that this had long-term effects on students’ attitudes toward the subjects.”
They also tracked the advanced math and science courses that students chose to take in high school. After controlling for other factors that might affect their choices, they concluded that "the girls who had been discouraged by their elementary school teachers were much less likely than the boys to take advanced courses".
In my next blog piece we'll look into 'it's unconscious'.
To your success,