Aaron William California
This is the true story of an intelligent and capable woman. The events took place at a major university in Southern California. A position opened up in the history department to hire a lecturer. A few of the applicants for the position were selected to give a lecture on an assigned topic. The candidates consisted of a few men and one woman. The hiring committee included a few men and one woman.
One of the gentlemen in the committee was given the responsibility of assigning the candidates a topic, and the hiring staff was informed separately. Not to the knowledge of the other committee members, the gentleman who assigned the topics intentionally gave the female presenter a topic different than what was expected. To the committee members, the female’s presentation on the wrong topic made her look as if she could not stay on topic and did not know what she was doing. The goal of his actions was to contribute to the stigma that women are not equal in terms of intelligence and capability in the academic world as men. No surprise, the woman did not get the position.
What might have happened if the woman had presented on the correct topic, we will never know. What the story addresses is the notion that women are less intelligent and capable than men, whether in academics or in fields of employment. This one man’s actions are by no means a representation of how the majority of men in America treat and view women. Yet, knowing that incidents like these still exist is evidence that American society has a ways to go before equality is reached between the genders. Thankfully, research by psychologists now presents overwhelming evidence that, in reality, men and women are equally intelligent and capable.
How Ideas of Sex Differences get Started
Research, according to the textbook Educational Psychology, Twelfth Edition, on why there are differences in levels of intelligence in general is “the result of both heredity and environment” (p. 128). What this means is that human behaviors, aside from biology, make a difference in how and what both sexes learn. Gender stereotyping, prejudging one sex to be more associated with a skill than the other, plays a major role in education differences between boys and girls. For example, a gender stereotyping study in Germany “found that by age 9, girls already…associated men with mathematics” (p. 127). The environment in which these girls were raised, not their biology, created gender stereotypes of men and women.
Boys and Girls in Infancy
To debunk the notion that one sex is more or less intelligent than the other, let’s examine psychological research on human infancy. Research by psychologists has found that “from infancy through the preschool years…few differences between boys and girls in overall mental and motor development or in specific abilities” even exist between the genders (p. 126). Furthermore, according to Educational Psychology, “during the school years and beyond, psychologists find no differences in general intelligence” among the two sexes (p. 126). The evidence finds that, during infancy, boys and girls are equal in terms of intelligence and development. So far so good.
From the Elementary to High School Years
In one study, according to Education Psychology, a research project that compiled data from “242 studies that included 1.3 million elementary through high school students…found that in the United States and some other nations, girls’ and boys’ performance in mathematics [are] comparable” (p. 127). From elementary to high school, research finds that, in terms of mathematical abilities, boys and girls perform equally well. A final question remains. Where on earth do humans get the idea that one sex is smarter than the other?
Men and Women as Equals
Scientific research is proving that both boys and girls are equal in terms of intelligence and abilities. Causes for achievement gaps between the sexes are caused in large part due to gender stereotyping, i.e. social constructs, and not due to biological inferiorities of either gender. Perhaps the gentleman who sabotaged the female applicant’s presentation is simply a victim of poor teaching by society. Maybe he did not see women as equally capable as men because he was taught gender stereotypes as a child. The take home message is that, before humans prejudge the opposite sex as being superior or inferior to the other, let’s examine the facts first.
Personally I am appalled by the notion that women are thought of as any less intelligent and capable as men are in any respect. In my own life I’ve met female professors at the University of Idaho who are just as intelligent and capable as men are in their academic fields, such as math, literature, and science. Knowing that, in fact, women are just as intelligent as men are, I am left to ponder as to why some men think less of women. I feel that, most importantly, there is a solution to the problem, one that is simple and to the point. The solution is to give women a chance. If more women are hired as professors and teachers, from elementary to the Universities, in the different academic fields, men and women will begin to see that both sexes are equally intelligent.
Woolfolk, A. (2013). Educational Psychology, Twelfth Edition. Pearson. 116-165.