11222000 Dr. Kathryn Keller
Montclair University  
Education -  11/22/2000

The educational experiences of female and male students - from elementary school through graduate school - are different and more importantly, unequal.  Although females now constitute a slight majority of students, they continue to confront a number of structural barriers.  

Renzetti and Curran speak about the difference between the formal curriculum and the hidden curriculum. Formal curriculum is the set of subjects officially ad explicitly taught to students in school. The hidden curriculum is the value preferences children are taught in school that are not an explicit part of the formal curriculum, but rather are hidden or implicit in it.

Using David Sadker's article April 1999 article in Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, let's examine some of the structural barriers in education

Despite the fact that Title IX - the provisions of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 that forbid sex discrimination in any educational programs or activities that receive federal funding.

Segregation still thrives in U.S. Schools -  sometimes in blatant discrimination - sometimes in what Renzetti and Curran call micro-inequities : subtle, everyday forms of discrimination that single out ignore, or in some way discount individuals and their wok or ideas simply on the basis of an ascribed trait, such as sex.

Elementary School
Classroom interactions between teachers and students put males in the spotlight and relegate females to the sidelines.

The interactions differ in at least two ways: the frequency of teacher-student interactions and the content of those interactions.

With respect to frequency of teachers' interactions with their students, studies show that regardless of the sex of the teacher, male students interact more with their teachers than female students.  Boys receive more teacher attention and more instructional time than girls do.   Of course, this may be due to the fact that boys are more demanding than girls.  Boys, for instance ,a re more likely than girls to callout answers, thus directing teachers' attention to them more often.  Research shows that when boys call out comments in class without raising their hands, teachers, usually accept their answers, whereas teaches typically correct girls who call out answers by telling them the behavior is "inappropriate."

The content of the teacher-student interactions also differs depending on the sex of the student.  Teachers provide boys with more remediation; for example they help boys find and correct errors.  They pose more academic challenges to boys, encourage them to think through their answers to arrive at the best possible academic response.

Teachers' comments to boys are more precise than their comments to girls.  Even at very young ages boys get more praise for the intellectual quality of their work, whereas girls are praised more often for being congenial and neat.   Black students, regardless of their sex, are more likely to be reinforced for their social behavior, whereas White students are more likely to receive teacher  reinforcement for their academic achievements.  Black girls in particular, though, are rewarded for nurturing, mediating, and keeping order.

At the same time, while boys generally engage in more positive intellectual interactions with teachers, they are also more likely than girls to incur their teachers' wrath.  Boys are subject to more disciplinary action in elementary school classrooms, and their punishments are harsher and more public than those handed out to girls.    

Golombok and Fivush conclude that, "From this pattern of praise and criticism, boys may be learning that they are smart, even if not very well behaved.  Girls, on the other hand, are learning that they may not be very smart, but that they can get rewards by being good.'"

Middle class children receive more favorable evaluations from teaches than lower-class children.

Textbooks - The gender message that teachers send to students are often reinforced by the traditional curricular materials available in elementary schools.  Regardless of the subject - English, math, reading, science - females and minorities continue to be underrepresented in textbooks.  There is evidence that children's readers have improved significantly with respect to the use of gender-neural language and the inclusion of females.  However there continues to be imbalances in favor of males with regard to rate of portrayal and types of roles assigned to males and females in the stories (e.g. girls need to be rescued, more than boys; boys are more adventurous than girls; women work for men, but not vice versa).

The organization of school activities also gives children messages about gender.
Many teachers continue to use various forms of sex separation in their classrooms.  Form separate lines - organize teams.  Assign different chores.
Consequences - sex separation in and of itself prevents boys and girls from working together cooperatively, thus denying children of both sexes valuable opportunities to learn about and sample one and other's interests and activities.  Second sex separation makes working in same-sex groups more comfortable than working in mixed-sex groups - a feeling that children may carry with them into adulthood and that may become problematic when they enter the labor force.  Theirs, sex separation reinforces gender stereotypes, especially if it involves differential work assignments.

Finally , children receive messages about gender simply by the way adult jobs are distributed in their schools.  Although approximately 87% of elementary school teaches and dd83% of teachers' aides are women, women are underrepresented in the upper management of school administrations.  For example, 40% of school officials and administrators are women; 43% of principals and assistant principals are women.

Secondary school
For teenage boys, the single most important source of prestige and popularity is athletic achievement,  What contributes most to a teenage girl's prestige and popularity is physical attractiveness.

Girls who behave in ways defined by their peers as gender-inappropriate are likely to be unpopular and ostracized.  Boys who behave in gender-inappropriate ways are also ridiculed and ostracized by their peers, but they do not consistently lower their academic or career aspirations as a result.

Teachers, parents, and students themselves usually attribute boys' academic achievements to ability; whereas girls' achievements are attributed to effort or hard work the implication being that those with lesser ability must expend greater effort to succeed.  

Like elementary school teachers, high school teachers tend to offer male students more encouragement, publicly praise their scholastic abilities and be friendlier toward them than they are toward female students.

Curriculum materials - recent reviews of high school textbooks, found both subtle and blatant gender biases including language bias and gender stereotypes, omission of women and a focus on  "great", white men.

School personnel may also contribute to making girls feel that they will be unable to fulfill their aspirations.  For example, research indicates that school counselors provide little useful career information to girls.  Studies also indicate that school personnel may channel male and female students into different fields and activities, with female student's in particular being discouraged from pursuing fields as mathematics, engineering, construction and pharmaceuticals.

Courses -
During the 1990s, female enrollment increased in many math and science courses.  Honors as well as advanced placement courses showed enrollment gains.

Girls are more likely than boys to take biology and chemistry whereas physics is still a male domain.  Boys, however, are more likely to take all three core sciences - physics, chemistry, and biology

Tests continue to reflect a gender gap, particularly high-stakes tests like the SAT.  Although the gap is decreasing.

Several factors have been argued.  Improvement in gender bias in tests have narrowed the gap.  Several other social factors also appear to be related to the gender gap in mathematics.  One factor is the extent to which math and math-related activities are oriented to males rather than females.  Observers have noted, for instance, that math word problems are often framed in terms of traditionally masculine-typed areas and interests.

Much computer software, especially computer games, in also masculine in its orientation.  Boys enter school with more computer experience than girls, and girls know it.  Girls rate themselves significantly lower on computer ability.

Stereotyping is alive and well in the tech world.  Girls are more likely to enroll in word processing and clerical course, whereas boys are more likely to enroll in advance computer science and computer design classes.  

In their classic study of gender and mathematics performance,  Fenemena and
Sherman discovered that the major difference between male sand females with regard to mathematics is not math ability per se, but rather extent of exposure to mathematics.  Through out elementary shock, when boys and girls take the same math classes, there is little, if any, difference in math  achievement.  It is not until around seventh grade that the gap begins to appear.  As the years progress, girls become less likely than boys to taken any math courses beyond those required by their school for graduation.  Yet, among girls and boys with identical math backgrounds, there is little difference in performance on math tests.

Two factors appear to be critical in influencing girls' and boys' decisions to enroll in math courses: their interactions with teachers, and encouragement of their parents.  
A recent study of 14 school-to-work programs revealed that over 90 percent of females cluster in a few traditional careers: allied health careers, teaching and education, graphic arts, and office technology.

Who are the teachers? although elementary school girls can identify with tier teachers, who are almost always women, it becomes more difficult to do so in high school, whereas about 43% of the teachers are men.  In vocational courses, female teachers are concentrated in subjects traditionally considered feminine: occupational home economic (92%) , health (90%) and office occupations (69%)

More likely to have a ale teacher for their math courses (58%) and for science (65%)

Hostile environment - sexual harassment -
Most victims don't report it.  Even when victims choose to report incidents of sexual harassment, administrators may downplay it and,  are usually dealt with informally.  

Most sexual harassment in educational settings is perpetrated by peers.  The negative impact is that it may affect their sexual work, certainly affects their self-esteem.

In 1992 the US Supreme Court ruled that sexual harassment in school is a form of educational discrimination and that schools that fail to address the problem may be held liable for damages to victims.  In 1998  the US Supreme Court severely narrowed the circumstances under which schools may be held liable for sexual harassment of students by teachers.  In a 5 to 4 decision, the Court ruled that students who are sexual harassed by a teacher may sue their school district for monetary damages only if they can demonstrate that school district officials knew about the harassment and deliberately did nothing to stop it.  

In addition , the guidelines stress that in order for a behavior to constitute sexual harassment, it must be severe and repetitive; a single inappropriate act is not considered sexual harassment.

Colleges and Graduate Schools

Women and men continue to be in different fields of study.  More male student pursues degrees in engineering, computer science philosophy and religion, architecture, and the physical sciences.  Female students are heavily concentrated in nursing, library science, social work, psychology home economics, and education.

This imbalance persists and worsens at the graduate level.  Graduate degrees of men and women tend to be concentrated in different fields.  For example, men earn about 88% of the Ph.Ds in physics, but less than 7% of the PhDs in nursing.

The majority of females major in English, French, Spanish, music drama and dance, whereas males populate computer science, physics, and engineering programs.

Although almost half of medical and law students are female, they are concentrated in a few "female friendly" (and lower paying) specialties.

Other facts: the number of female degree recipients declines dramatically.  Consider that although women represent more than half of all bachelors' and master's degree recipients, they constitute slightly more than one-third of all doctorate recipients.  More importantly, male pads outnumber females pads in several field s that ha either a higher concentration of women undergraduates or a relative balance between the sexes at the undergraduate level.  

In addressing the first question, we must consider not only when women are largely absent from certain fields, but also why there are so few en in fields such as nursing, home economics, social work ad library science.  We can say with some certainty that the scarcity of men in the female-dominated fields has less to do with discrimination against them than with their unwillingness to pursue careers in areas that typically have lower prestige and lower salaries than the male-dominated fields.

Professor - Student interaction
Male students are called on more than female students, are interrupted less when they are speaking, and, in general, their comments are taken more seriously Btu the professor.

Professors may use sex-stereotyped examples when discussing men's and women's social or professional roles.

References are made to males as "men" but to females as "girls"
Comments are made about female student's physical attributes or appearance.

Comments/actions are made that disparage women in general.

Other barriers to equality for women in higher education: the lack of mentors and role models.
Women faculty and administrators:  still too few.

Women are 40
% of administrators at US colleges and universities; 84% of these women are white.  

Women represent just 33.2% of full-time college and university faculty.  In general, the more prestigious the institution or department,  the fewer the women.  For example, at doctoral granting institutions, women are 27.4% of the faculty, whereas at two-year colleges, women are 45.9% of the faculty. Similarly, the higher the academic rank, the fewer the women.  At Ivy League school about 10 -15% are tenured professors.

Tenure rate at all school for women is 58% compared to 75% for men.
17% of full professors
30% of associate professors
42% of assistant professors
49% of instructors

Regardless of rank or tenure status, women faculty are paid less than men and, the gap is widest at the highest academic rank.  Indeed, even though the number of faculty who are women has increased substantially during the last fifteen years, there has been little change in the ratio of female faculty salaries to male faculty.  The gender gap in faculty salaries has remained fairly stable in the last ten years.

Mentor - a net result of the imbalance of university faculty is a lack of mentors for female students and students of color.  

Sexual Harassment exists at the college/graduate school level in both quid pro quo harassment and in hostile environments - for both females students and female faculty.

Researchers have also documented contrapower sexual harassment which "occurs when the target of harassment possesses greater formal organization power than the perpetrator."  

As is true at other educational levels - reports tend to go ure0roted to school and campus authorities.  There tends to be a downplaying of it.  Few universities have dismissed perpetrators, especially tenured faculty members.  Despite widespread concerns among faculty regarding the possibility of false accusations, evidence indicates that these are rare.  In fact, in their survey of 668 US colleges and universities, Robert and her colleagues found among the 256 administrators who responded to a question about how many false complaints of sexual harassment they have ever received, only 64 complaints were identified as proven to have been intentionally fabricated,  - that is less than 1%.

Victims report declines in their academic performance, discouragement about studying a particular field, lowered self-esteem, emotional disturbance, and phys8ical illness.

Structuring more positive learning environments.

Question of single-sex institutions.
Studies do show that for girls, single-sex education is highly beneficial.  Girls who attend single-sex schools have, on average, higher levels of self-confidence and greater success in obtaining high-status, high-paying jobs after graduation.  They get to study non-traditional female fields without the discomfort of being in the minority and without discouragement from male peers and faculty.

But many, Sadker included that while it may help girls learn more and better, it does not address the problems of gender inequality and discrimination that characterize the institutions of our society.  Sadker says It can not be a substitute for ensuring equitable public education for all our students.
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