Female professors have to put up with more requests from students asking for academic favors than male professors, research suggests
Students treat male and female teachers unequally.
A new study shows that female professors have to put up with more requests from students asking for favors like grade increases, deadline extensions or the opportunity to re-do assignments, than male professors.
Researchers from the Eastern Washington University conducted two studies. In the first one, they relied on data from 88 professors surveyed in the US and found that students felt more comfortable asking female teachers for academic favors than they did with a male in the same profession. Female teachers also seemed to have friendlier relationships with students than their male counterparts, perhaps making them more approachable. Although the relationships may be positive, the burden of being asked for favors takes a more emotional toll on women, the study suggests.
The second study analyzed 121 college students and found that those who felt entitled to academic success, regardless of their actual performance, were most likely to ask a female professor for extra favors, and react negatively if they didn’t get what they wanted. Meanwhile, they were less likely to nag a male professor after being rejected.
And Moneyish found that female teachers at all levels have experienced this behavior from students firsthand.
Molly Diallo, a Miami, Florida-based high school social studies teacher, has noticed some of her students tend to push the limits more with her in terms of leaving the classroom, talking in class, whipping out cell phones or asking for extensions on assignments — than they would with her male colleagues.
“I’ve been teaching for 20 years and I definitely see where there can be issues that are related to gender. I have a colleague who is a middle-aged male and even though our personalities are similar, some of my students who I have had challenges with and personality conflicts feel more empowered to cross the line [with me] than they would with him,” Diallo tells Moneyish.
In her experience it happens more with her male students. “It could be asking to change a deadline, or it could be asking to go out and use the restroom and leaving class, in general I’d have to ask them to stop and if you discipline them then they become more agitated than they would with a male teacher,” Diallo says.
More recently, Diallo says her students have been begging her to include a word bank on an upcoming vocabulary test, but she says she’s been firm with her decision not to.
“I’m not type A enough for them to feel nervous to the extent of not asking for a favor even though I don’t usually bend,” she says.
El-Alayli, lead author of the study, believes the findings suggest expectations that men are more respected and authoritative make even entitled students unlikely to oppose their male professors’ decisions.
And sometimes the pressure for women to maintain an authoritative role in the classroom so kids don’t think you’re a pushover can be a challenge, Diallo notes.
“Because of gender, some of the women feel more so that they need to be strict. They try harder,” she says.
Other academics, like New Jersey elementary school teacher Ondrea Bradley, disagrees with the study, and believes students react to personalities rather than genders.
“It [the study] somewhat implies that female teachers are more passive or easier to approach than men. But in my experience it varies, and I don’t think it really has much to do with gender, but rather more to do with one’s personality or teaching style,” she says. “It depends on the teacher, not their gender.”
Ashley Ordonez, a Spanish teacher in Westchester Country, agrees, but has noticed students generally have been more open about asking for favors at school now more than in previous years.
“I have seen a change with in student expectations. They seem a little more entitled. Some feel very comfortable asking for favors and such,” she says.
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