by Robin Bosworth ’24
Throughout history, there have been divides between men and women, both as children and adults. In ancient times (and more recently in certain communities), women were viewed as their husband or father’s property, not counting as citizens in many places. However, as humans have evolved as a species, men and women have continued to be treated more equally. Although the divide between those two genders has been reduced significantly over time, biases and stereotypes still persist, stemming from the history of humanity.
Even at TLS, many students, particularly females, feel that a gender bias exists, which is impactful on their school experience. Whether that is created internally, such as through the desire to prove themselves, or something systemic, it appears very real and relevant to some members of the community.
“I think it’s interesting that despite the fact that our grade is majority girls, in the honors stem classes, it doesn’t always reflect that,” sophomore Kyra Esrig said. “I think people may believe that the girls won’t do as well as the boys, or that the girls won’t push themselves as much as the boys.”
However, in some of the honors Hebrew and Judaic Studies class, the number of girls significantly outweighs the number of boys. In both the sophomore honors Hebrew and Tanakh classes, there is only one boy, differing from the numbers surrounding honors STEMclasses.
“As the only boy in my Hebrew class, it can be awkward when [the teacher] says words in the Hebrew female plural instead of the form used for everybody because I wouldn’t be included in that,” sophomore Andrew Amona said.
Over the past few years, there have been fewer girls who have opted to take 11th-grade honors history.
“It’s been three years running that there have been more men than women in that class,” History Department Chair Joseph Modica said. “I don’t believe that the men are smarter than the women in this school. It may be that the men gravitate to history more, but those numbers are real.”
Some people feel the root cause of the gender issue is in some ways unimportant because what matters is how it affects people.
“I think it is a societal norm enforced by gender biases and gender roles that have been ingrained in our society over generations, but I also think this is inadvertently reinforced in school communities across the country,” history teacher Lea Silverstein said. “I know that people don’t say or think these things with any mal-intentions but sometimes because of gender biases it comes off that way.”
According to a study by the University of Nebraska, a group of students, both male and female, had to assess themselves on their academic abilities. Women ranked themselves significantly lower than the men, even though their grades and academic performance were equal. The results of this study can reflect in TLS when girls choose not to take honors-level classes just due to a lack of self-confidence academically.
“I am in a bunch of honors classes, and there usually are not that many girls in those classes, especially math,” junior Maya Glick said. “I think if you’re a girl you’re supposed to be more on top of it. But I think a big part of it is just your reputation and your personality.”
Gender biases can start at a very young age; for example, when kids are in elementary school and the girls and boys interact separately and almost exclusively, it can create ideas in their minds about the other gender.
“In terms of friendships, sometimes biases can happen just based on human psychology and who you relate with,” sophomore Asher Friedland said. “However, I think by high school, people get more comfortable talking to other genders.”
The issue of gender bias is not exclusive to high school students; many women feel it in the work environment as well. With examples in society today, such as the gender pay gap, women feel they are less valued in the professional world. According to the American Association of University Women, an organization fighting for gender equality, women receive around 83 cents for every dollar a man in the same job gets paid.
“I think that there is an expectation that female teachers are more nurturing, therefore they’re easier teachers,” Silverstein said. “I also think that because I’m not only a woman but I’m a young woman, that increases the bias further by inferring that I have less experience, or I have less knowledge and that I don’t know what I’m doing compared to people who are older or who are men.
“I don’t think anyone is doing it intentionally but I do see some of these gender biases that are ingrained in our society. I would like to say that it feels less today, but I think it depends on the person and I don’t think anyone can claim to know what somebody else is feeling or experiencing.”