Women in Mathematics: Gender Stereotypes in Education

Gender stereotypes often dictate "appropriate" behaviour for boys and girls. For example, some people may believe that girls are emotionally weak and that boys should never cry. It is common for people to think that women belong in domestic or nursing professions. At the same time, men are better suited for industrial jobs. Girls are often told to play with dolls, while boys are encouraged to play outside. These stereotypes can damage people's ability to express themselves freely. It is important to be aware of the impact that gender stereotypes can have and to avoid perpetuating them.


There is a growing trend of gender stereotyping in academia, especially in STEM subjects like mathematics. Only 15% oftenure track positions in mathematics are held by women. This is one of the lowest percentages in the whole of sciences. In general, women are stereotyped as less mathematically aligned. Even when on par with men (based on academic/professional positions/qualifications), women are often referred to as "Mrs" as opposed to an omnipresent "Dr." for men. From Aspasia(470-410BC) to Emmy Noether(1882-1935), women have for long actively contributed to the subject, however, they are not regarded as such. A deeper understanding of such stereotypes and their effects on women was forwarded by feminist thinkers who questioned this rampant male patronization in education and industries.


Outline

1. What is a stereotype?

2. How do stereotypes form?

3. Gender stereotypes and Education

4. Why is combating gender stereotypes important?

5. Combating gender stereotypes in Mathematics

What is a stereotype?

Before understanding the trials and tribulations that gender stereotypes avail to women in academia, let us work out some basics! To start with, let's clear out what stereotypes are really about.


According to social psychology, a stereotype is a generalized belief about a particular category of people (Wikipedia).


So to put it in simple words: a stereotype will try to highlight differences between groups. Often, stereotypes are formulated upon inaccurate ideals due to the isolation of one group from another. This results in unfair and rigid beliefs of one obout the "other" group. In an experimental study, 628 American men and women were required to describe men and women on a range of dimensions. This included concern for others, sociability etc. Results indicated that male raters generally described women as being less agentic than men. Such restrictive understanding of another is due to the stereotypes that a group attaches to others.

How do Stereotypes form?

Gender stereotypes and education

Why combating gender stereotypes is important

Combating gender stereotyping in Mathematics

Education is the great equalizer, but only if we allow it to be.

Education is an important gateway to economic and socio-political sovereignty for any civilization and stereotyping is one of the obstacles in its way. Although all around the world, equality is debated and promised however it is far from being implemented in practice. It's high time that we implement and not just shake off this responsibility. Education should be used to present a healthy community to the world, not to discriminate based on one's social class.

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