The High School Student News Site of The American School in London

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The High School Student News Site of The American School in London

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The gender divide



At the beginning of last year, the theme of gender equity was stressed to the High School, during an appearance by guest speaker and author Jean Kilbourne who addressed this issue at the first assembly. Gender equity was discussed repeatedly throughout the year in the classrooms, in the hallways and in the offices of administrators.

At the center of this debate is the question of gender stereotyping. For Head of College Counselling Patty Strohm, the well- known stereotype is “that girls like the humanities and boys do better in math and science.” English Department Head Meghan Tally dislikes the certain stereotypes that she believes are present. “I think we’re living in a particularly toxic and divisive culture when it comes to gender stereotypes,” she said. “[These stereotypes] are particularly binary which means boys and girls are presented as these two clear-cut options as opposed to trying to understand gender on a spectrum.”

Data collected by The Standard shows that SAT statistics of ASL students over the past four years support the stereotypes. Over this time frame, on average, male participants have scored higher in two out of the three SAT components, as well as achieving higher average overall exam scores.

The average SAT score for girls was 1962 out of 2400, a noticeable 54 points lower than the average boy’s score of 2016.

The greatest gender divide on the SAT is shown in the math component. Girls scored an average of 641 out of a possible 800 points while male participants  drastically outscored girls by an average of 41 points, making their average score 682 points. “Although boys have been traditionally better at standardized testing, more girls attend college and certainly more girls graduate,” Strohm said. “So does it really matter if boys do better in the SAT?”

With regards to the math component, ASL SAT results have a direct correlation with similar data collected in the U.S. A 2012 College Board report shows boys on average scoring 33 points higher than girls on the math component of the SAT.

However, for Strohm, standardized tests such as the SAT are merely a snapshot of a student’s high school career. “Standardized testing is only one point in time, one measure,” she said. “Frankly, I’m more concerned about the kind of courses [students] take and the kinds of learning they pursue.”

Although SAT data may suggest some truth behind the stereotype, enrollment in AP math courses does not. In these courses, 49 percent are girls and 51 percent are boys. Similar data from the science department shows that AP classes are also not boy-dominated, with 47 percent female and 53 percent male students. “How long is a standardized test? Maybe three, four hours. Now how many hours do you spend in [these classes]? It’s a huge difference,” Strohm said.

Math Department Head Neil Basu believes that too much time is spent on gender equality rather than on gender equity. He hopes that ASL can create an environment where different styles of learning are applauded. “[Girls] are very organized. If you ask them to do nine problems they will have done those nine problems,” Basu said, “A boy may have gone off on a tangent on problem number one, not completed five of those problems, but done something really weird on that first problem.”

This type of thinking, Basu said, is rewarded in high level math classes.

Furthermore, he explained the reason behind this is due to the emphasis placed on “male characteristics in upper level math and science classes and [teachers] de-emphasizing female characteristics, in a studying sense.”

Much speculation has occurred over the role gender plays in extracurricular organizations such as Student Council (StuCo), the Student Faculty Disciplinary Board (SFDB) and the National Honor Society (NHS). For the 2012-2013 school year, StuCo had a majority of female representatives; 60 percent of the 20 members were girls, and this year, every elected officer of the council is female.

However, a breakdown of the SFDB over this same time period, showed an imbalance in the gender of its members, with 80 percent male representation out of 12 members.

StuCo representative Victoria Dreyer (’16) said that she doesn’t believe StuCo is a gender exclusive group.  “Yes, Student Council has a majority of girls but I don’t think that is because it’s exclusive,” she said. “A lot of StuCo is planning social events. That’s just something that girls enjoy more.”

The NHS is a selective organization based on grade point averages (GPA). For the 2012-2013 school year, just over two-thirds of the group were girls. NHS President Johnathan Cirenza (’14) is one of the 14 boys of the 40 members that make up the NHS. “It’s not particularly noticeable to be honest,” he said. From his point of view the application process is fair.

Although statistics suggest that the gender divide in both academics and extracurricular plays a significant role at ASL, Momo Steele (’16) said, “It’s all about the incentive. I think it’s about who you are, not what you are.”

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