Gender Differences

Gender differences are based on the concept of gender, which refers to socially defined differences between men and women. By contrast, sexual differences can only be attributed solely to biological differences between males and females. However it is common to use gender differences to encompass both sex and gender differences when referring to people, since those differences cannot be separated from their environment. Gender differences have been of particular interest in education. Studies have focused on boys and girls approaches to learning and the way differences in their approach may affect classroom structure or individual students and their achievement. It is important to understand the research on gender differences and how they are related to the educational environment, as many schools consider single-sex options for certain courses or even single-sex schools.

Some researches in this area focus on gender differences in science classes in school. According to national data set in the United States, girls lag behind boys on science achievement scores. In addition, there is also a difference in the levels of interest. Girls take fewer courses in science at high school level. They are also less likely to select science majors in college as well as to pursue occupations in science-related fields after college. While boys and girls do not differ in their ability to learn science at the genetic level, girls still appear less confident in their abilities than boys and they are more reluctant to participate in such classes. Even when methods like hands-on, active approaches, cooperative learning techniques and performance-based assessment are incorporated in science education, girls' attitudes do not seem to change. As a result, the differences may be attributed to influences beyond the educational system. This is related to the fact that children at a very early age are influenced by societal expectations and stereotypes, which tell them what they should be interested in and what they should be good at. Parents can help their children by explaining to them the different messages about gender roles they get from society.

There are a number of misconceptions about gender differences. One of them is also related to education, but focuses on boys' and girls' math abilities. Research has shown that the results of math tests for boys tend to be better and boys are more likely to choose career paths centering on math, such as technology, engineering and computers. However, this cannot be attributed to a biological difference but rather to the perception that girls are inferior at math. According to many tests, women score poorly when people in the tested groups are primed to think about the bias against women. However, when people are primed to think about gender-neutral subjects, there is no gap in the scores. Many researchers believe this well-known psychological phenomenon "stereotype anxiety" accounts for girls' lower scores on math tests. In many societies, men are believed to be competitive and woman to be collaborative. However, research by professors from the University of Chicago and Columbia University showed that in cultures where there is no such stereotype the results are different. In Khasi, the matrilineal society from India, women were more competitive than men. Researchers concluded that this showed that competitive drive was not based on biology and the gender differences were a result of social biases.

There have also been several studies related to the emotionality of men and women. Many of them have shown that men and women experience emotion in the same way, but women's scores on tests of emotional expression are consistently higher than those of men because of the existing perception of women as the more emotional sex. Another misconception about men and women is the popular stereotype that women talk a lot more than men. However, studies have found that the number of works spoken by men and those spoken by women is virtually the same. Women are also often considered to be the more intuitive sex. However, research has shown that men's and women's abilities in this area are just about even. Psychologist Janet Shibley Hyde has found that men and women differ substantially only in a few areas, some of which concern physical abilities. Men and women were also found to be different in certain facets of and attributes about sexuality as well as in their expression of aggression. Overall, the reinforcement of stereotypes about men and women is damaging, because it solidifies outdated gender roles and can prevent people from expressing themselves.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The War of the Sexes: How Conflict and Cooperation Have Shaped Men and Women from Prehistory to the Present
Paul Seabright.
Princeton University Press, 2012
The Psychology of Gender
Alice H. Eagly; Anne E. Beall; Robert J. Sternberg.
Guilford Press, 2004
Different but Equal: Communication between the Sexes
Kay E. Payne.
Praeger, 2001
Gender Differences in Relational and Physical Aggression
Burton, Leslie A.; Hafetz, Jessica; Henninger, Debra.
Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, Vol. 35, No. 1, January 1, 2007
Being Boys, Being Girls: Learning Masculinities and Femininities
Carrie Paechter.
Open University Press, 2007
Biology at Work: Rethinking Sexual Equality
Kingsley R. Browne.
Rutgers University Press, 2002
Language and Gender
Penelope Eckert; Sally McConnell-Ginet.
Cambridge University Press, 2003
Gender Differences at Puberty
Chris Hayward.
Cambridge University Press, 2003
Biology, Society, and Behavior: The Development of Sex Differences in Cognition
Ann Mcgillicuddy-De Lisi; Richard De Lisi; Irving E. Sigel.
Ablex, 2002
An Examination of Gender Differences in Work-Family Conflict
McElwain, Allyson K.; Korabik, Karen; Rosin, Hazel M.
Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, Vol. 37, No. 4, October 2005
Estimation and Impact of Gender Differences in Risk Tolerance
Neelakantan, Urvi.
Economic Inquiry, Vol. 48, No. 1, January 2010
Gender Differences in the Academic Ethic and Academic Achievement *
Chee, Kyong Hee; Pino, Nathan W.; Smith, William L.
College Student Journal, Vol. 39, No. 3, September 2005
The Developmental Social Psychology of Gender
Thomas B. Eckes; Hanns M. Trautner.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000
Praeger Guide to the Psychology of Gender
Michele A. Paludi.
Praeger, 2004
Sex and Gender
John Archer; Barbara Lloyd.
Cambridge University Press, 2002 (2nd edition)
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