The title pretty much says it all.
Teachers Give Girls Better Grades on Math Tests When They Don’t Know They Are Girls
Things have changed a little. Dr. Mrs. Dr. F. studied engineering in another time and place, where teachers felt perfectly comfortable saying things like ‘I didn’t think a woman should have the highest score in the class, so I lowered it.’ That guy was an outlier even for his time but the idea of consequences for saying something like that was inconceivable. Still things have not changed enough. Not by a long shot.
In reality women do the same as men in fairly scored math tests (this study is pretty authoritative). So what’s the problem? First, as shown above fairly scored math tests don’t happen as often as they should. But we can become our own worst enemy as well. Expectations have more weight than people realize. Believe that you can do something stupidly hard and your odds go up by a non-trivial margin. But the flip side has power as well. Psychologists call the phenomenon stereotype threat: girls taking high school tests, for example, do significantly better if they ‘prime’ themselves with positive examples of women in science and mathematics beforehand. Boys already get that priming; we call it science class.
So the good news is we no longer live in the dark ages where people can make a general argument against women in the hard sciences. That means the will to fix the problem already exists, we just need to do it. Yes the problem has two faces – teachers’ prejudice on the one hand and self-destructive ‘stereotype threat’ on the other. But we know how to fix both of them. The sting survey works extremely well at finding institutional bias. Make those part of the how you evaluating a school or instructor and the problem will fix itself in a hurry. Stereotype threat is even easier. Most of the time you just need to know it exists. Marie Curie won two Nobel Prizes before most women could vote. You personally might or might not suck at math but it has absolutely nothing at all to do with being a girl (or a guy).