Consequences of Teachers’ Gender Biases

Posted by National Bureau of Economic Research on March 9, 2015

Math bias against girls

A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research points to the influence of unconscious bias around math and science in teachers towards girls, writes Claire Cain Miller for The New York Times. Early educational experiences have a quantifiable effect on math and science courses that students later choose, as well as jobs they get and wages they earn. The effect of bias is larger in families where the father is more educated than the mother, and for lower-income girls. The pipeline for women to enter math and science occupations narrows at many points between kindergarten and career choice, Miller writes, but elementary school is a critical juncture. Reversing bias among teachers could increase the number of women who enter computer science and engineering — fast-growing, high-paying fields. Prior studies have found that college professors and employers discriminate against female scientists, and that even earlier, discouragement from teachers in math or science lowered student confidence in other subjects at school. In computer science in the United States, just 18.5 percent of high school students taking the AP exam are girls. In college, women earn 12 percent of computer science degrees. Last year, Google, Apple, and Facebook, among others, revealed that fewer than a fifth of their technical employees are women.

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