clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Students think their male professors are 'genius' and women professors are 'caring'

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

Ben Schmidt, an assistant professor of history at Northeastern University, built a website to visualize how students describe male and female professors differently on

It's striking how different adjectives sort by gender — sometimes dramatically so. Men are more likely to be described as smart or brilliant.

The gender divide is deepest on the usage of "genius":

use of genius in professor evaluations

Female professors are more likely to be "nice" and "helpful" and "caring":

use of caring in professor evaluations

Men are much more likely to be described as funny, but also slightly more likely to be criticized as boring

(The most boring disciplines are evidently anthropology, philosophy, and history — or at least the disciplines where being boring is considered a serious drawback.)

use of boring in professor evaluations

And while "fair" doesn't have much of a gender divide, "unfair" skews decidedly female:

use of unfair in professor evaluations

Schmidt is encouraging people on Twitter to play with the visualization tool and see what they can learn about students, professors, and gender stereotypes in higher education.