Glencora Borradaile






         Associate Professor & College of Engineering Dean's Professor, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Oregon State University

October 3, 2011

My office hours are gender balanced

Filed under: Silent Glen Speaks @ 8:37 am
Tags: , ,

If I didn’t see the students sitting in the lecture room while I taught and only knew who I was teaching to by the students who speak to me after class, in the hallways or in my office hours, I would think the gender ratio was at least balanced in computer science.

Overwhelmingly, one-on-one, my students are female.  I can be even more anecdotal.  Most students ask me questions immediately after class, rather than during office hours – I encourage this, and loiter outside the classroom, taking questions.  Inevitably, I get several male students first.  Then, after, I get just as many, if not more, female students.  Are the male students more aggressive? Are the female students more polite?

What I’d really like to know: what is your experience?  Do more women see you one-on-one?  In your comments, it would be helpful if you include your own gender …

(I am posting to the TCS aggregator, even though this is not  TCS specific, because I would like the broader reach.)
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4 Comments

  1.   Jeff P — October 3, 2011 @ 9:14 am    

    I roughly find the same scenario. My class is about 3:1 males, but on questions after class I find its much closer to 1:1. I am male.

    In class the males also speak much more (even more than the 3:1 ratio would imply), but it quickly evens up after class.

  2.   Nick — October 3, 2011 @ 11:49 am    

    I think this is real and fairly consistent. I am male and youngish (mid-thirties). When I teach large classes within the CS major, there is about an 8:1 M:F ratio in class but more like a 3:1 ratio in questions/office hours. (Smaller classes may have only two or three women in them. It seems hard to generalize from such a small sample)

    Last spring I taught a CS0 course with ~100 non-majors. The M:F ratio was 60:40 in class and perhaps 1:2 in questions (both around and during class and in office hours).

  3.   Paul — October 3, 2011 @ 10:00 pm    

    I haven’t thought about it as a count but there are some different styles of students in office hours and some gender differences in what I see: Some students come in having thought about a problem, possibly with an idea about how to proceed, but simply want confirmation that they understand the question correctly or that what they want to do or have done is enough. Some students have issues with understanding the basic concepts and want them re-explained. Finally, others haven’t thought that clearly and want to catch crumbs from me or from others’ questions.

    Generally, the first type – often on the right track but wanting confirmation of it – has a high proportion of women – maybe it is merely an issue of confidence. I find that
    men form a high percentage of those looking for crumbs. I don’t see a pattern among those who really didn’t get the content (which is a small minority of the whole).

    I wonder if the preponderance of women in the first category is related to “men don’t ask directions but women do” phenomenon.

  4.   Nitish — October 11, 2011 @ 6:46 am    

    It’s been a couple of years since I taught / TAed a class, but 3:1 or 4:1 sounds about right for the ratio between the gender balance of the class and the office hours. (By a ratio of 4:1, I mean that if the class has a gender balance of 2 M: 1 F, office hours tend to have 1 M : 2 F.)

    I was a TA for 9 semesters, and had a number of students contact me for one-on-ones outside office hours. To the best of my recollection, every one of these was a woman. And in office hours, the women were often in Paul’s “first type” – on the right track, but wanting confirmation.

    I didn’t really have the men-asking-questions-first-right-after-class issue, though. After the first few classes, the women did tend to hang back a little, but I tried to call on the students waiting to ask questions by name instead of letting them catch my attention, and I tended to call on the ones hanging back first. A few weeks into the semester, the women were right up there at front with the men.

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