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Study finds teacher bias discourages girls from STEM courses and careers

A recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research sheds light on the reason women avoid science, technology, engineering and math.

Claire Cain Miller, writing for the New York Times, said the study found elementary school was a crucial time in the development of young girls. The study found biases in teachers made them less likely to encourage young girls to pursue STEM subjects.

“It goes a long way to showing it's not the students or the home, but the classroom teacher’s behavior that explains part of the differences over time between boys and girls,” said Victor Lavy, an economist at the University of Warwick in England and a co-author of the paper.

Miller said researchers, who conducted the study in Israel, found girls outscored boys when graded anonymously. However, when teachers knew the name of the children, boys outscored girls. Young girls who are dissuaded were found to be much less likely to pursue advanced STEM courses later in life.

Stereotyping the ability of women to perform well in intellectually challenging environments is not limited to STEM fields or elementary age girls. Cynthia Fox, writing for Bioscience Technology, reported the findings of a study conducted by Princeton philosopher Sarah-Jan Leslie and University of Illinois psychologist Andrei Cimpian.

The researchers tracked the opinions of 1,800 experts in 30 different fields. Experts, both male and female, who believed a person needed a high level of innate talent in order to be successful in their field were more likely to agree with the following statement, “Even though it’s not politically correct to say it, men are often more suited than women to do high-level work in (discipline.)”

“I expected philosophy would be at that end of the scale, but I was surprised that it was the most brilliance-emphasizing discipline of all,” said Leslie, showing how female under-representation not only occurs in STEM fields.

A group called Girls Who Code makes an attempt to encourage girls to pursue careers in technology. Sarah Buhr, reporting for TechCrunch, wrote about the group expanding its Summer Immersion Program.

The Summer Immersion Program will hold 60 session and reach 1,200 girls this summer. The program lasts seven weeks and will pair girls with mentors as well as give them opportunities to go on field trips to major tech companies, such as Twitter.

Sandra Vivian-Calderon, head of Girls Who Code Club at Castlemont High School in Oakland, California, told TechCrunch she was doubtful of her ability to program before becoming involved in the summer program. “It helped to spend time with other girls doing the same thing as me,” she said.

Leslie Corbly is a senior at the University of Oklahoma. She loves to read, write and run. Leslie can be contacted at