Students were taking a single online class with either a male or female instructor. In half the cases, the instructors agreed to dress in virtual drag: The men used the women’s names and vice versa.
Here, it was the female students, not the males, who rated the instructors they believed to be male more highly across the board. That’s right: The same instructor, with all the same comments, all the same interactions with the class, received higher ratings if he was called Paul than if she was called Paula.
And that higher rating even applied to a seemingly objective question: Did this teacher return assignments on time? (The online system made it possible to ensure that promptness was identical in every case.)
I came across this article in my Facebook feed via a friend and it gave me something to think about.
The article discusses some experiments that were done to determine if gender bias played a role in teacher evaluation. The results were fairly compelling and showed that female students will in fact rate a female teacher lower than a male even when the experiment is controlled to the point that the only difference between the two is the perception of their sexual identity.
Too bad there isn’t a way to determine the root of the bias. I’m tempted to think that the reason women rate a woman more harshly is because we expect more from other women. I know I do this and I have been trying to stop but I am automatically less forgiving of a fellow woman because I expect more from her than a man.
I mean, if a strange man starts a conversation with me, I am immediately on guard. I prepare myself for him to be rude or creepy or say/do something disagreeable. I begin the interaction by formulating a plan of escape. My expectations are so low that if he simply treats me like a human I’m impressed. Whereas with a woman, I automatically imagine that she is my equal in manners and intellect. I almost expect a certain protocol from her.
Women in authority are often portrayed as flawless in sitcoms, commercials, and other forms of media. The bungling father married to the smart, beautiful, insightful mother is a standard with which all Americans are familiar. Dads and male bosses screw up all the time, often for comedic effect. Moms and female bosses almost never do unless it is to point out that they’re too uptight or strict. And at the other end of the spectrum, we have the ditz. If a female character does foolish things, she will ALWAYS do foolish things. She’s rarely redeemed the way a male character is.
That being said, almost all of my favorite professors were women.