There are always articles upon articles in almost every major media outlet providing commentary about feminism and gender equality, particularly in the school system.
According to a Sept. 17 article in The Atlantic, there is a “gender bias” apparent at the Harvard Business School, in which female business school students, on average, have lower grades than their male counterparts. The article makes it clear that those female students had roughly equal test scores and other achievements to rival the male students when they were admitted, but the grade gap remains.
The Atlantic piece quotes Robin Ely, the Senior Associate Dean for Culture and Community at HBS: “We treated the gender grade gap as the canary in the coal mine — a signal that our culture may have been more supportive of some students than others.”
It has been my experience that female teachers who act as positive role models and provide mentorship can make a huge difference in a young woman’s life — and the same is probably true for males.
When I was a high school student, my favorite teacher was a woman who chose each word carefully and was in complete control of every aspect of her life — at least she appeared to be that way to me. Before meeting her, I was terrified of her. She was an intimidating woman who often made sure that students knew when she didn’t agree with something they’d said.
When I signed up to take her creative writing class, I was a little nervous. I worried that she wouldn’t like me or that she would think I wasn’t good enough to be in the class.
As I got to know her, I realized that she is one of the nicest women I have ever met. Her kind and compassionate ways became apparent and she helped me to feel extremely confident in my writing skills.
There was only one problem that I noticed about her, and it wasn’t one that had any direct effect on me: She didn’t seem to like boys very much. She loved her girls and often took on the role of a grandmother figure. However, she didn’t seem to care for the boys in her classes.
I hadn’t thought about this English teacher much since I graduated high school, until I read a New York Times op-ed “One Classroom, Two Genders” by Jennifer Finney Boylan, who explained that girls often say they have a better experience in class if they have a teacher of the same gender, and the same goes for boys.
The article made me wonder: Would my high school English teacher still have been my favorite had I been a boy? Could one slight chromosome change have affected my high school experience?
After thinking about it, I realized that it could have altered my entire high school career. My college counselor was a woman, therefore I felt safer opening up to her in ways that I’m not sure I might have had she been a man.
It sounds silly to boil it down to something as simple as “boys like boys and girls like girls.” But maybe when it comes down to making connections and feeling close with someone, it really is that simple. Women, in the most basic sense, need other women to succeed. Women need empathy, women need patience and most importantly, women need respect.
And who can provide these things better than other women?
Reach the columnist at email@example.com or follow her at @FreesiaDeNaples