ES.242 | Spring 2004 | Undergraduate

Gender Issues in Academics and Academia


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session


This course, as part of the Experimental Study Group Seminar Series, offers students the opportunity to participate in a small discussion-based class taught by an MIT upperclassman under the guidance of a faculty supervisor. Students Laurel Ruhlen (B.S. 06 Physics) and Kayla Jacobs (B.S. 06 Physics, 07 Mathematics) taught this seminar in cooperation with Dr. Holly Sweet, Lecturer and Associate Director of the Experimental Study Group. Seminars taught in this format are all graded Pass/Fail and receive 1/2 of the academic credit assigned to regular academic classes.

Course Description

Does it matter in education whether or not you’ve got a Y chromosome? You bet it does. In this discussion-based seminar, we will explore why males vastly outrank females in math and science and career advancements (particularly in academia), and why girls get better grades and go to college more often than boys. Do the sexes have different learning styles? Are women denied advanced opportunities in academia and the workforce? How do family life and family decisions affect careers for both men and women?

While much of the material will deal with the issues of girls and women in academics, boys’ experiences will also be addressed. We will also briefly investigate the effects of race and general societal pressures on these issues, and how MIT specifically is addressing gender concerns in its educational and research programs.

Class Structure

The class will meet for two hours once per week. The seminar is almost entirely discussion-based, guided by the readings assigned for that class.


Each week will have 25-50 pages of reading to be completed before class. A number of the selections, especially early in the semester, will come from two excellent books:

Sadker, Myra, and David Sadker. Failing at Fairness. New York, NY: Scribner, 1995. ISBN: 9780684800738.

Jossey-Bass Publishers. The Jossey-Bass Reader on Gender in Education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2002. ISBN: 9780787960742.

Others readings will be provided as photocopies or online links. Unless you’re using a library book, do mark up the pages with underlining, highlighting, and notes in the margins. Students are encouraged to suggest interesting supplemental topics and readings to the class.

Writing Assignments

Jot down your initial thoughts and reactions and questions after each reading (try to include the page number that prompted your idea, so that it can be easily referred to during the discussion). Come with at least one open-ended discussion question every week - something you found particularly interesting, or surprising. Your journal will not be graded or even looked at (unless you’d like the instructors to give you feedback); it’s for your own recordings of your thoughts, though you will need to draw from your notes during class discussions.

Grading Policy

This seminar is graded P/D/F. You will be expected to complete all the assigned readings before class, use your journal regularly, and participate fully and thoughtfully in the discussions. Because the discussion element of the course is so integral, you may miss at most two class sessions; please inform your instructors ahead of time if possible, and let them know if there are any special circumstances.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2004
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes