You May Be Part Of The Gender-Bias Problem

Ever wonder why the majority of your college professors are or were male? Well, your actions may be partly to blame. A new study from North Carolina State University found that students evaluate male professors better than female professors.

The study, published in the journal Innovative Higher Education, examined four online classes. The classes were split evenly between a male and female instructor, but each instructor told one of their online classes that they were the opposite gender. In other words, both instructors told one of their classes that they were a male and the other that they were female. Because the class was online, the students never saw or heard their professor. Each class, consisting of eight to 12 students, was asked to rate their professors at the end of the course. The evaluations asked about 12 different traits, from professionalism and fairness to enthusiasm and promptness.

Students overwhelmingly favored what they believed to be a male teacher, and rated them higher than “female” teachers on all 12 traits. It didn’t matter who was actually teaching the students, the mere belief that a teacher was male was enough to get them higher ratings. For example, even though the professors returned work to both their classes at the same time, students gave the “male” teacher a higher score for promptness.

Researcher Lillian MacNell says that these findings are important because student evaluations play a role in how universities hire, promote, and allocate tenure to professors. So, this type of bias is detrimental to the success of female educators and could be part of the reason for your testosterone-filled syllabus.

It’s always disappointing to find yet another roadblock for women’s professional success. It seems as if we are constantly expecting women to do more and work harder for less praise or even acknowledgement. So next time your find yourself filling out a teacher evaluation, cut your female professors some slack — it looks as if no one else will.