Gender bias in teaching: An operations perspective

Examining the effect of operational processes on gender bias in teaching

Gender bias in the rating of teaching instructors is an obstacle that can impede learning and result in inequality across instructors. An observational dataset from an online learning platform that serves non-university-degree holders in developing countries, reveals that female trainers are rated significantly lower than their male counterparts. By providing evidence to bias in operational systems, this research seeks to examine the relationship between gender discrimination and teaching delivery. Specifically, the study will analyse the interaction between the way in which gender bias affects teaching ratings, and how operational consideration and revelation of information affect ratings.



The challenge

There has been a steady increase in the number of women who have earned Bachelor, Master and Doctoral degrees in recent years. Despite that, gender imbalance within the education sector persists, with female instructors being extremely under-represented, especially within Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.

Evidence also suggests that bias exists both against female instructors among male learners, as well as against male instructors among female learners. Whilst women represent most non-tenure-track lecturers and instructors, only 44% account for tenure-track faculty and 36% for ‘full’ professors. Further, student evaluations of teaching (SETs) are often criticised for potential bias against women. Verbal reviews have shown that whilst female instructors are more likely to be judged with nurturing qualities such as warm and caring. Their male counterparts, on the other hand, tend to be more commonly associated with intelligent characteristics, such as being smart or brilliant.

The intervention

To investigate the cause of gender bias in teaching instructors, this study firstly proposes a controlled experiment design whereby the gender of the instructor is manipulated. Data will then be gathered on the levels of interaction, learning outcomes and evaluation of instructors. Simultaneously, the operational delivery of teaching including ratings will be examined, to assess the impact of previously potentially biased instructor ratings. The findings from this research will provide empirical evidence of gender bias in teaching.

The potential impact

Teaching evaluations play an important role in career progression within the educational sector, having a substantial impact on hiring potential, tenure and retention. This research has the potential to shed light on gender bias within teaching, and eventually hopes to increase the number of female instructors in classrooms. These learnings can then be adopted by organisations who specialise in online programmes for people of underprivileged backgrounds in developing countries. Evidencing transparency in the delivery of teaching could prove significant in reducing gender bias globally.