How We Talk About Our Teachers : NPR Ed The words college students use to describe their professors say a lot about how men and women are judged differently.
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How We Talk About Our Teachers

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How We Talk About Our Teachers

How We Talk About Our Teachers

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The website Rate My Professor lets students grade their teachers. If you're one of the teachers, that can be tough. For the rest of us, it's an opportunity because the website is gathering all kinds of information about how people view each other. What students are writing on Rate My Professor says a lot about how they see men and women differently. NPR's Will Huntsberry reports.

WILL HUNTSBERRY, BYLINE: A male instructor scouring his Rate My Professor profile might see these words.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Smart. Boring. Clever.

HUNTSBERRY: But if you're a woman...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Shrill. Sweet. Unfair.

HUNTSBERRY: That's according to a recent data analysis of the site from Northeastern University. And the differences don't stop there.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Brilliant.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Beautiful.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Genius.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Organized.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Jerk.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Annoying.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Arrogant.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Rude.

HUNTSBERRY: Can you hear the difference there? Northeastern's Benjamin Schmidt can.

BENJAMIN SCHMIDT: Students sit down and talk about intelligence for their male professors more often. They talk about helpfulness for their female professors more often.

HUNTSBERRY: The same applies to humor for men and organization for women. Schmidt explains it this way.

SCHMIDT: Genders are described both by one word and their opposite.

HUNTSBERRY: That means even though men are more often described as smart, they're also more often called idiots. Along the same lines, women are more likely to be seen as warm but also cold.

DAVIS: We're evaluating men and women on different traits. We're having different expectations for individuals who are doing the same job.

HUNTSBERRY: That's Erin Davis. She's a gender studies professor at Cornell College. She says this is a problem in all parts of working life because in most fields, being judged on intelligence gives men the advantage, especially in higher education.

DAVIS: Particularly when you're thinking about the extent to which things like smarts, intellectual ability, genius, those tend to be the things that are more academically considered.

HUNTSBERRY: Schmidt's analysis showed that on average, women scored one-tenth of a point less than men on Rate My Professor. But another study showed students gave significantly lower ratings to professors with a female name. Both researchers say all men and women should be judged on whether they are smart and nurturing, not just one or the other. Will Huntsberry, NPR News.

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