Parents Still Say Boys Have the Brains ; after 40 Years of Feminism and with Girls Excelling at Exams, Myths about Gender Persist, Researchers Say
Thompson, Jonathan, The Independent (London, England)
ONCE REGARDED as intellectual inferiors, they swept the board in last summer's school exams and took the biggest share of university places.
No one doubts that girls are just as bright as boys - no one, that is, except their parents. Today a report by a leading psychologist will say that 40 years of feminism have failed to alter the age-old prejudice that boys are the ones with the brains.
Brushing aside a mountain of evidence to the contrary, parents still believe their sons to be more intelligent than their daughters, according to Professor Adrian Furnham of University College, London. Men consistently rate themselves as brighter than women, and judge their offspring accordingly.
"Fathers differentiate more than mothers do," he said, "but there is still a pattern. Mothers also think that their daughters are not as bright as their sons."
Like many women, Daphne Romney, now 45 and a successful London barrister, found that her brother was given educational advantages. "He was sent to independent school and I wasn't, which irked me," she said. "But he didn't go to university at all, and I went to Cambridge."
Karren Brady had even more to complain about. At 31, the head of Birmingham City Football Club is now the youngest managing director of a plc in the country. Just three weeks ago she was shortlisted for businesswoman of the year. Despite her obvious intelligence, Karren says her parents took a very limited view of her future.
"My brother Darren went to university in London, which my parents thought was the pinnacle of the world, but Dad told me from a very early age that I'd only be good enough to work in Woolworths, and he really believed it. When Darren was 17, he got a brand new Ferrari for his birthday. When I was 17, I got a Ford Escort.
"My parents didn't think I was as smart as my brother, and because of that, they made me feel as though I was bottom of the class. There was never much praise for me, and it always felt as though my achievements paled in comparison to his. I think they thought I'd be all right because someone would marry me eventually."
Mr Furnham believes that the prejudice crosses all boundaries of age. People believe their grandfathers were brighter than their grandmothers, for example, their fathers brighter than their mothers and their brothers brighter than their sisters.
"Parents will brag more about their sons than their daughters," said Furnham. "If shown a bell-curve of intelligence tests, they will place their son higher than their daughter, estimating them to be capable of a better score."
Such stereotyped views could, he says, be a reflection of the fact that society is not as forward-thinking as it claims to be. "Females are still rewarded for humility, men are rewarded for hubris. …