Gender Tutorials: Causes and Cures

 I was reminded yesterday of Virginia Valian’s Gender Tutorials at a Hunter College web site.  All of them are worth going through; the second and third are especially imporant for understanding gender schemas and their effects, even effects on how one judges oneself. 

The 4th tutorial is about what you – students – can do.  I don’t think it is all right.  For one thing, she starts out by telling you that you’ll encounter a receptive environment if you suggest changes.  Well, maybe  in the sciences (tho’Mr JJ says “no”), but philosophy is thousands of years old, and I can tell you, a lot of people do not like new ideas.  BUT there are  some useful ideas about trying to improve the environment.  For example, TAs can ask the professor to introduce them to students in a way that increases confidence  all around.  Just the presence of more women helps, so you can ask that women be invited to give talks.  (She doesn’t say this, but I’d have some names in mind, and maybe even a list with some accomplishments mentioned.)

There are more ideas.  So see what you think!

Girls innately bad at math? Nope.

A new study suggests that lower girls’ math scores result from lower status in society more generally. The cross-cultural study reveals that:

Globally, boys tend to outperform girls in maths (on average girls score 10.5 points lower than boys) but in more “gender equal societies” such as Iceland, Sweden and Norway, girls scored as well as boys or better.

For example, the maths gender gap almost disappeared in Sweden, while in Turkey girls scored 23 points below boys in maths.

Average girls’ scores improved as equality improved and the number of girls reaching the highest levels of performance also increased, the researchers found.

Girls outperformed boys in reading everywhere, but even more so in places with greater gender equality:

On average, girls have reading scores that are 32.7 points higher than those of boys (6.6% higher than the mean average score for boys). In Turkey, this amounts to 25.1 points higher, and in Iceland, girls score 61.0 points higher.

Researchers conclude:

Sapienza said: “Our research indicates that in more gender equal societies, girls will gain an absolute advantage relative to boys.”

I must say I’m just as sceptical about claims of girls’ innate superiority as I am regarding claims of their innate inferiority. And just as disturbed. Still, this is fascinating stuff, and clearly bears more investigation.

One thing I wonder about is how ‘gender equality’ of an overall society is measured, and the exact details of how it’s realised in different societies– as well as details of their educational systems. Sadly, I don’t have time to go read the article right now! So if you do, please tell us about it.