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Stereotypes spur boys and girls towards different gendered fields


By Minji Kim

Published Feb. 26, 2020

Investigative Report Editor

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Grace Li Art

At least 15% of them are guys?

While gender disparities in the workplace have been a prevalent discussion topic for several years, these disparities are mirrored in high school classes. The school’s advanced classes generally have more males in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and more females in humanities courses. For instance, Jennifer Touchton, English Department, has two Advanced Placement (AP) English Language classes comprised of 60 percent females, AP English Literature has 68 percent females and AP Studio Art has 85 percent females. For STEM classes, Robin Wallace’s, Science Department, AP

Physics 1 class has 65 percent males, AP Physics 2 has 81 percent males, AP Chemistry has 72 percent males, AP Computer Science Principles has 54 males and AP Computer Science A has 59 percent males. “Our culture tends to steer females more towards expression, reading and writing. There is plenty of bias that steers males more towards numbers, math and science. Nowadays, there are more girls feeling comfortable pursuing math and science. However, there is still a bias towards girls being more communications and language-oriented,” Touchton said. Data from College Board further confirms this polarity. According to the 2019 College Board AP Program Summary Report, 96,970 more females took English Literature, 65,232 more took Art History and 13,001 more took Studio Art - Drawing. Meanwhile, 35,463 more males than females took Computer Science A, 24,811 more took Physics C - Mechanics and 22,515 more males took Calculus BC. However, these disparities are not always present. For instance, the school’s AP Statistics course has a nearly equal distribution of females and males— with 49 percent and 51 percent respectively—as well as AP Calculus AB, with 51 percent females and 49 percent males. AP Biology consists of 62 percent females and 38 percent males, according to Anu Sarkar, Science Department. Despite its uncommon gender distribution, Sarkar said one of the main reasons for the difference can be attributed to stereotypes. “In upper-level biology classes, I have always seen more females than males. Part of the reason might be that biology has always been perceived as a softer science compared to physics and chemistry. Based on socioeconomics and ethnicities in our neighborhood, which is primarily Asian, this stereotype is very prevalent. Therefore, a lot of families want their sons to go into more physics and engineering classes. However, over the years, as students have achieved success in AP Biology and been extremely successful in college, later going into multiple careers, the enrollment of males has drastically increased,” Sarkar said. Despite the difference in mathematical skills between girls and boys being negligible, gender differences perpetuate due to social factors such as gender stereotypes. According to Psychology: Science in Action, in a study conducted in 1999, when women were told females did worse on a math test, they did much worse than men. However, when women were not told this, they had the same results as males did. The study attributed this to the fact that women generally lack more confidence than men, as explained by the Atlantic. Despite these stereotypes, many students at the school take upper-level classes they believe will help them pursue their dream careers. “I am taking AP English Language, AP Physics 2 and AP Computer Science A. In the future, I want to pursue a career in computer engineering, which clearly relates to computer science. Physics 2 is related because it discusses circuits and electricity, a vital part of computer engineering. AP English Language is not linked with my major, but it is still a very important class no matter what major I would go into, as I will always have to be able to effectively communicate my ideas,” Junior Duy Lam said.

The Atlantic explains that encouraging females to pursue STEM fosters more diversity in the field. Encouraging males to pursue humanities is just as important, as, according to Inside Higher Ed, this can facilitate more ease in sharing ideas. “Careers in the sciences require much more than pure science, and I took AP Literature to become a better communicator. I plan to pursue computational biology, which is super interdisciplinary, and the classes I have taken this year have combined those interests to prepare me for the future,” Senior Rashi Ranjan said.

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Minji Kim

Investigative Report Editor

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