Bossy or Brilliant?

Interesting piece in the Times today about how students evaluate professors.  Most of this is likely familiar to anyone in academia:  for example, male professors are more likely to be described as smart, brilliant, knowledgeable, etc., while females are more likely to be described as bossy or disorganized.  The most interesting thing to me is the study where male and female professors returned papers at the exact same time, and yet the students gave the male professors higher marks for “promptness.”

There is some good news in the article.  The guy who did the study was “surprised that relatively few people commented on female professors’ clothing or looks.”

I’m often struck by how much confidence my students have in me.  Based on the questions they ask in class, they really think I know everything, when the truth is I only practiced law for six years.  I haven’t practiced in nearly five years, I’ve tried one case in my life, I know next to nothing about criminal law, and my knowledge of substantive civil law is limited to the relatively few areas encountered by a BIGLAW associate.  The students’ perception that “he must know something” (or everything!) is probably partly attributable to the fact that, as an almost-middle-aged white guy in a suit, I at least look like a lawyer to them.

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