One way to help women excel in science and mathematics is to make sure they don’t have to talk in front of other people.
That’s according to a recent article in NASPA Journal About Women in Higher Education about women in STEM.
For the article, two professors, Laura Parson of Auburn University and Casey Ozaki of the University of North Dakota, interviewed eight whole female physics students about their experiences, concluding “masculine norms” in STEM courses were holding women back.
As reported by Campus Reform, those masculine norms included, “asking good questions, capacity for abstract thought and rational thought processes,” “motivation,” independence, and a low fear of failure.
While acknowledging women are not only less likely to major in science and technology when compared to men, those who do are less likely to graduate. According to the professors, female students were more risk averse and tended to be quieter during class, often approaching a professor privately if they had questions.
One of the eight students interviewed, Madison, a senior in mathematics, told the researchers that a fear of failure certainly impacted her academic performance. She dropped a class recently solely because she was afraid of performing poorly, according to Campus Reform.
Another physics major told the researchers that silence in class, a reoccurring theme, is due to not wanting to “sound stupid.”
“These STEM student ideals are gendered because women are evaluated against measures and characteristics that reflect a male worker…[these standards] are built around the idea of an unencumbered male worker, [and] promote an ideal that is very difficult for women students to achieve,” the professors wrote.
The researchers also claimed that the heavy course load found in STEM fields is toxically masculine, by reinforcing the “masculine ideal of working an unlimited number of hours based on the unencumbered male body.”
The professors recommended hiring more female STEM professors, without acknowledgement of aptitude, and for STEM departments across the nation to “redefine success by changing expectations.”
To dismantle the culture of good-question-asking in science and math classes, the researchers recommend allowing students to write their questions down on paper, instead of asking aloud.
“This requirement that the average student asks questions and speaks in class is based on the typical undergraduate man,” the professors concluded.
Feature image via videoblocks
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