Female professors less often rated as ‘brilliant’ and ‘genius’

New York, March 7 (IANS) Students in the US two to three times more often describe male professors as “brilliant” and “genius” than female professors, new research has found.

“Male professors were described more often as ‘brilliant’ and ‘genius’ than female professors in every single field we studied — about two to three times more often,” said lead researcher Daniel Storage from the University of Illinois, US.

For the study, the researchers conducted an analysis of more than 14 million reviews on RateMyProfessors.com, where students write anonymous reviews of their professors.

Students most often use the words “brilliant” and “genius” to describe male professors and in academic disciplines in which women and African-Americans are underrepresented – such as philosophy and physics — the findings showed.

The findings, reported in the journal PLOS ONE, included academic disciplines in the sciences, humanities, social sciences and math.

The new analysis offers new insights into students’ attitudes and thoughts, the researchers said.

“What is valuable about spontaneous comments is that they provide an unvarnished reflection of how people evaluate others in their field, and what they look for in other people in that field,” Andrei Cimpian, professor at University of Illinois, noted.

The study also found that none of the following four factors could fully explain the underrepresentation of women or African-Americans in a field — average GRE (graduate school entry exam) math scores, the desire to avoid long hours at work, the selectivity of each field or the ability to think systematically.

While there are correlations between some of these factors and the presence or absence of women and African-Americans in some fields, “we consistently found that the only thing that was explaining the proportions of women and African-Americans in a particular field was that field’s emphasis on the importance of brilliance and genius,” Storage said.

“Both of these groups are stereotyped in a similar way about their intellectual abilities and therefore are potentially affected in a similar way by the amount of emphasis that’s put on brilliance,” Cimpian said.

“The people in certain fields might not see that quality in women and African-Americans. Women and African-Americans themselves may be conditioned to not see these qualities in themselves,” Cimpian noted.

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