News & Politics

Turns Out, Men Aren't Smarter Than Women

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In a new study published by Advances in Physiology Education, Katelyn Cooper demonstrates that even though many perceive men to be more intellectually suited than women for the classroom, it’s not true.

According to Cooper’s research, “Using the best model and controlling for all other variables, the average man with a 3.3 GPA (average GPA of students in the class) is predicted to perceive that he is smarter than 66% of students in the physiology class, whereas the average woman with a 3.3 GPA is predicted to perceive that she is smarter than only 54% of the students in the physiology class.”

I understand that academic eggheads (not a pejorative) have compelling needs to publish—some external, some internal. Furthermore, I’m happy for Katelyn Cooper, who is pursuing her Ph.D. at Arizona State University School of Life Sciences; she’s starting off her professional academic career on a high note. But, well, how do I put this?

While interacting with the study, there were several moments when I caught myself rolling my eyes.

While, in the main, I agree with soon-to-be-Dr. Cooper, for me the published study is a “well, duh” thesis. What’s more, I would argue that the vast majority of people who stand to benefit the most from reading it will never even know that it exists. Students who are unwittingly self-sabotaging their academic career to one degree or another, parents who need to do a better job of making sure that they’re not unwittingly reinforcing idiotic gender/sex stereotypes, and those employed in teaching our children during their formative years generally have neither the time nor interest in reading dense, peer-reviewed journals.

Frankly, I have a hard time understanding the need for this type of research and published study to begin with. I was raised in a very strict, conservative Christian family, and yet there has never been a time in my life when I believed that men were more intellectually equipped than women for the classroom. In short, there has never been a moment in my life when I believed that men are smarter than women.

My mom was an incredibly intelligent woman. My oldest sister was valedictorian of her class, and as a 6th grader at the time, I was incredibly proud that my sister was the smartest kid in her class. Throughout my entire schooling, including my time at Bob Jones University, the better students tended to be female. Not once do I ever remember hearing at my conservative home or at my conservative Christian school that men are smarter than women. In fact, if anything, the perception pointed in the opposite direction than the perception that Cooper is challenging with her research.

So, I don’t get it. I do not understand how anyone can accept the obviously laughable belief that men are smarter than women. Sadly, though, many apparently do.

In an article posted on ASU’s website, Cooper explains her reason for undertaking the study:

“I would ask students about how their classes were going and I noticed a trend. Over and over again, women would tell me that they were afraid that other students thought that they were ‘stupid.’ I never heard this from the men in those same biology classes, so I wanted to study it.

[…]

This is not an easy problem to fix. It’s a mindset that has likely been engrained in female students since they began their academic journeys. However, we can start by structuring group work in a way that ensures everyone’s voices are heard. One of our previous studies showed us that telling students it’s important to hear from everyone in the group could be enough to help them take a more equitable approach to group work.”

Two things can be true at once. So, while I believe that Cooper’s research will most likely never trickle down to when and where people need it most, I agree with her in the main and wish that it would make in-roads into the minds of people who don’t read peer-reviewed journals. Men are not smarter than women. Believing that idiotic lie is a stumbling block not only to women but to society as a whole.